York Police Charge 60, Seize More Than 20,000 Illegally Grown Cannabis Plants, 560+ Kilograms of Dried Cannabis in Drug Busts Involving Licenced Cannabis Grow-Ops

Article by , Toronto Star

York police charge 60 in alleged $45-million drug busts involving licenced cannabis grow-ops Peter Edwards By Peter Edwards

Organized criminals in the GTA are exploiting loopholes in Canada’s medical marijuana licensing laws to create massive grow-ops which finance widespread drug operations, York police said after charging 60 people and allegedly seizing more than $45-million in drugs.

The arrests came out of two parallel York police investigations — dubbed Projects “Zen” and “Moon” — that focused on drug trafficking by organized crime groups, some of which were supplying street gangs in the GTA, police said at a news conference in Aurora on Thursday.

“It’s all organized crime,” Det. Insp. Jim Walker of the OPP, who were involved in Project Moon, said in an interview at the press conference, at which drugs, cash and seized firearms were on display.

The busts included the largest fentanyl seizure of its kind in York Region history, police said.

Project Moon, which resulted in 42 arrests, targeted what police call a large-scale synthetic drug network, including Asian organized crime groups and the Parkdale Crips street gang.

The suspects were funding their operations through the production and sale of illicit cannabis by abusing the Health Canada medical licencing system, police said.

They were using large grow-op facilities north of Toronto to produce and distribute drugs including methamphetamine, ecstasy, shatter and magic mushrooms, police said.

Police said officers seized more $40-millon in drugs, including more than than 20,000 illegally grown cannabis plants, more than 560 kilograms of dried cannabis, 23 kilograms of meth, 15,300 ecstasy pills, about four kilograms of magic mushrooms, 400 Viagra pills, $220,000 in currency and four firearms, including a TEC-9 semi-automatic pistol with a silencer.

York police Supt. Mike Slack said criminals are purchasing legally obtained marijuana production permits and using them to start up virtual cannabis farms.

“None of it was going to the legitimate licence owner,” Slack said, noting that some of the product was destined for the U.S.

“Traditionally, Canada has always been an exporter of cannabis,” Walker said.

Project Zen, which resulted in eight arrests, dealt with a Vaughan-based group and followed up on the arrest of a suspect who was allegedly found with more than three kilograms of cocaine in 2018.

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