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Cheap land may be driving boom in illegal eastern Ontario pot grow-ops

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18 grow-ops raided, 126 people arrested since late July

Cheap land may be driving a proliferation of grow-ops in rural eastern Ontario, one that’s seen Ontario Provincial Police charge dozens of people and seize tens of millions of dollars of illegal cannabis in just over two months.

In that time, the region’s seen 18 drug busts that have led to 126 people arrested on charges that they illegally grew cannabis.

Nearly 59,000 plants were seized in the busts — an approximate street value of at least $70 million — along with hundreds of kilograms of processed cannabis, guns, cash and production equipment.

Police estimate each plant is worth between $1,200 and $1,400. The raids took place between July 29 and Oct. 2, at mostly rural addresses within a few hundred kilometres of Ottawa.

Strange goings-on

At one mid-September bust of a large outdoor operation in McArthurs Mills, Ont., midway between Bancroft, Ont., and Renfrew, Ont., OPP charged 26 people with growing more than 4,000 cannabis plants and possession for the purpose of selling.

Most said they were from the Greater Toronto Area. Officers also seized 16 rifles, some of them semi-automatic.

Another raid took place at a stately farm on Townline Road in Rideau Lakes Township.

On Sept. 25, OPP seized 6,500 plants being grown both indoors and outdoors, a high-end sport utility vehicle, generators and a variety of growing equipment.

An aerial photograph taken by police showed a sprawling outdoor cannabis plantation at the rear of the property.

CBC visited some of the farms and spoke to neighbours who said they were aware of something strange happening.

“It was bizarre, because very frequently we could hear all-terrain vehicles over there,” said Krista Duff, who lives close to the Townline Road grow-op.

Duff said in the spring, the family that had lived there as long as she could remember put the property on the market, along with about 35 hectares of land, for $650,000.

The farm sold quickly, Duff said, and it wasn’t long before she sensed big things happening next door. She said her family could hear a constant drone, which they guessed to be generators, along with steady ATV traffic to the property’s rear.

Duff still hadn’t met her new neighbours when one day, OPP aircraft began circling overhead and at least seven police cruisers raced up the neighbours’ driveway.

WATCH | An unknowing grow-op neighbour:

Since late July, provincial police have raided and seized about $70 million in cannabis plants, cash and guns from 18 isolated grow-ops across eastern Ontario. It's possible low property values may be enticing organized crime to set up shop in the region.

Forty pot plants seized as police bust marijuana grow-op

St-Pierre-Jolys RCMP along with the assistance of the East District Crime Reduction Enforcement Support Team (CREST), the Emergency Response Team (ERT) and the National Weapons Enforcement Support Team (NWEST), executed a search warrant at a residence on Leclaire Road, in the RM of Ritchot. Officers located a marijuana grow operation inside the residence. Photo by Handout / RCMP

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    A 37-year-old man faces numerous charges under the Cannabis Act after police busted a marijuana grow-op last week, seizing a large amount of pot.

    Last Tuesday at around 11 a.m., St-Pierre-Jolys RCMP along with the assistance of the East District Crime Reduction Enforcement Support Team (CREST), the Emergency Response Team (ERT) and the National Weapons Enforcement Support Team (NWEST), executed a search warrant at a residence in the RM of Ritchot.

    Forty pot plants seized as police bust marijuana grow-op Back to video

    Last Tuesday at around 11 a.m., St-Pierre-Jolys RCMP along with the assistance of the East District Crime Reduction Enforcement Support Team (CREST), the Emergency Response Team (ERT) and the National Weapons Enforcement Support Team (NWEST), executed a search warrant at a residence on Leclaire Road, in the RM of Ritchot. Officers located a marijuana grow operation inside the residence. RCMP seized approximately 40 marihuana plants, 225 grams of dried marijuana, 18 firearms, other weapons and drug paraphernalia. Photo by Handout / RCMP

    Inside, officers found a marijuana grow operation. RCMP seized approximately 40 marijuana plants, 225 grams of dried marijuana, 18 firearms, other weapons and drug paraphernalia.

    A male was arrested and is facing charges of possession of illicit cannabis, possession of cannabis for the purpose of selling, growing more then four cannabis plants and cultivating illicit cannabis, under the Cannabis Act. He is also facing criminal charges of unauthorized firearms storage and possession of a prohibited weapon.

    St-Pierre-Jolys RCMP continue to investigate.

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    A 37-year-old man faces numerous charges under the Cannabis Act after police busted a marijuana grow-op last week, seizing a large amount of pot.