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'I didn't know ... this was going on'

March 22, 2007
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'I didn't know ... this was going on'

Some tenants noticed a sweet smell but unaware it was linked to massive grow op in apartment complex
By Dana Brown and Daniel Nolan
The Hamilton Spectator  (Ontario, Canada) 

ONTARIO, CANADA - Shauna MacNeill didn't notice anything odd going on in the apartment right across the hall from her unit in her east end building.

The mother of two believed the 12th-floor unit in the Silvana Manor on Violet Drive was vacant.

In fact, it was part of what appears to be a sophisticated grow operation that was spread through her building and two neighbouring apartment buildings.

Unit 120 was equipped with large silver ducts that spread throughout the apartment and were fed into a boarded-up window in the living room. There was a control switch attached to a fan on the ducts, which would direct any marijuana smell outside.

"I have two kids and two cats and I don't need this crap," said MacNeill while she and other residents gave a Spectator reporter a tour last night of the half-dozen units on the 11th and 12th floors converted into grow ops.

MacNeill, 21, isn't alone in being stunned at the operation which was going on in the buildings. Some others said they noticed a sweet smell on their floor over the last little while, but didn't believe it was linked to a massive grow op.

"I sensed a smell," said Sonny Sharma, 24, a truck driver who lives on the 11th floor. "My fiancée smelled it, but it was a strong cigarette smell. I just thought someone was smoking a joint. This is unbelievable."

Others weren't so shocked. Some said they complained about odd activity and a foul odour to the landlord.

"When I complained, someone just said I complained too much," said a 58-year-old woman, who did not want to give her name. "There was a smell. There was noise at 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. No one would listen to me. I must move from here."

A typical unit had a half-dozen electric plugs set up in the linen closet and another half-dozen in the kitchen. There were large lights, tarps and some type of a watering system hooked up to the kitchen sink. Windows were boarded up and jugs of plant grower were lying around in parts of the units. Dozens of pots (the plants had been removed by police) covered the living room and bedroom floors.

Some units had thermometers stuck on walls and windows. One unit had automatic timers and another had a calendar from a Chinese restaurant in Toronto. Days were stroked off and it indicated the unit had been visited since Feb. 19. The markings stopped March 20.

The pungent smell of marijuana still permeated some of the hallways of the Rita Court building at 11 Grandville Ave. several hours after the police raids. Residents said a previous superintendent who tried to clean up the building was the target of violence and eventually left.

By the numbers:

6,000: number of plants seized by Toronto police at a grow-op bust, Nov. 23, 2006, worth estimated $6 million.

30,000: marijuana plants seized in January 2004 at a Barrie grow-op bust valued at $30 million.

1,200,000: marijuana plants destroyed in the past five years by the OPP during 3,000 grow-op raids.

$7 seedling: has the potential to yield a $1,000 plant in 60 to 90 days.

$1,000,000,000: In October 2004, Monte Kwinter, minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, states, "Indoor marijuana grow ops in Ontario are a billion-dollar-a-year business."

$12.7 billion: the estimated revenue generated by marijuana grown in Ontario between 2000 and 2004.

$100,000,000: amount in 2002 that grow-ops were estimated to have cost Ontario.

85: percentage of the $100 million in financial losses to Ontario that is due to the theft of power from the province's electricity system by grow house operators in 2004.

40 times: how much more likely a fire is in a grow op than in a typical private dwelling in Ontario.

$50,000 to $100,000: the amount of fines for individuals and corporations allowed under the Law Enforcement and Forfeited Property Management Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, to help combat the threat to community safety posed by illegal marijuana grow operations. The amendments to the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997, will double the penalties for violations of the act and the Ontario Fire Code. Violators can now be punished with fines of up to $50,000 or one year in jail, or both. The fines can reach $100,000 for corporations.

10,000: estimated number of children living in grow houses over the 2000-2003 period.

Sources: Toronto Star, Government of Ontario, Toronto Police Service, OPP.

Inside the grow op


Two exhaust fans face out of holes in the wood covering the window to help ventilate the apartment. One fan goes through a hole in the wall.


A sheet covers the window, while plants on the floor are heated by high-intensity lights. An exhaust fan comes from the other bedroom.

Living room

Large covered lights hover over the growing plants on the living room floor. A thermometer hangs on the wall to ensure the temperature is just right. The exhaust pipe hangs above to help get rid of odour.


Hydro boxes are rerouted to allow for the grow-op to go undetected. Grow- ops can use three to 10 times more power than the average home.


The stove is removed from the kitchen and hydro cables line the counter top. The exhaust pipe from the bedroom comes through a hole here and into the living room. 

Copyright 2007 Toronto Star Newspaper, Ltd.
All Rights Reserved

Full story: 'I didn't know ... this was going on'

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