RCMP take to the bush and the sky in search of pot plantations
Pemberton RCMP are still searching for the farmer whose crop was harvested early last Thursday after discovering a marijuana grow in the bush somewhere near Pemberton.
According to Sgt. Bruce Waite of the Pemberton RCMP the 65 mature pot plants were located "more by accident than anything." The plants were watered by a battery powered system and the outdoor grow operation, if harvested, would have fetched over $100,000 on the street.
Waite says the operation was camouflaged within the natural vegetation and was almost impossible to detect without standing right beside one of the chest-high pot plants.
"We live in a fertile valley with 100 frost-free days a year," says Waite. "People grow honeydew melons and cantaloupe here and that's harder to grow than marijuana."
Although Waite could not speculate on the amount of marijuana grown in the Pemberton Valley, he did say the numbers would surprise a lot of people.
Typically RCMP step up their pot patrols in the Pemberton Valley when harvest time rolls around, but Waite says they do not spend a lot of time or money looking for marijuana farms.
"Basically if it is quiet one day we will send in some (RCMP) members in an area where there may be suspicious activity," he says. "Most of the information we get is provided by members of the public that observe some action that they think is a little out of the ordinary."
British Columbia marijuana is quickly becoming world renowned for its quality and potency says Waite, and that is raising the stakes in the pot growing game.
"With prices going around $1,000 to $2,000 per plant with quality bud on them, it doesn't take a lot of plants to get into a very high income bracket and as the profit goes up so too do the risks people are willing to take," he says.
RCMP often use helicopters to patrol valley bottoms, cut blocks and hydro lines looking for outdoor grow operations nearing harvest.
Cpl. Darryl Little of the Whistler RCMP, says they have employed a $750 an hour helicopter in search of harvestable plants in the past, but the air patrols have yet to kick off this year.
"The helicopter we usually use for patrols was being used at Gustafsen Lake until recently so we haven't been up yet," Little says. He adds the local detachment is not too worried about big pot grows in the Whistler Valley because the elevation is too high and the season too short to make marijuana plantations a viable business in the area.