The RCMP's annual aerial sweep in search of outdoors grow ops in the area surrounding Pemberton uncovered 25 sites with more than 11,900 plants.
The efforts to find and destroy outdoor marijuana grow operations in the region took place over three weeks this year, from Aug. 23 to Sept. 6. No arrests were made, and police are continuing to investigate.
The outdoor sites were discovered on Crown land with between 50 and just over 1,000 plants in each. The yield varies depending on species, the soil, sun exposure, water and the level of care, but websites suggest that a single marijuana plant grown outdoors can yield between four ounces to just over a pound in a normal climate.
"A great deal of time, effort and money went into engineering and setting up these sites," said Superintendent Derek Simmonds of the RCMP Federal Serious Organized Crime department.
"Dismantling the sites and seizing the marijuana will impact the groups who intend to profit from these illegal grow operations. The expected profit from these plants will no longer be available to support additional criminal activities."
Simmonds added that the plants were not intended for personal use, but were intended for the purpose of drug trafficking.
The search for outdoor grow operations is an annual project for RCMP. In the first weekend, plants were found on slopes in the In-SHUCK-ch area, Soo River and D'Arcy areas.
At one of the larger fields police found sleeping areas, living quarters, equipment and food to support a crew of six to eight people for weeks. As well, a dedicated drying tent was set up with three generators and 200 litres of fuel available, plus packaging equipment. The police said it appeared that harvesting had just begun when police located that site.
That camp had no road access, just a trail leading in from a logging area. That operation would have resulted in several hundred pounds of dried and packaged marijuana.
Courts may sell grow-op house
A residence in Alpine Meadows may be sold by police under the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which allows crime-related property to be sold if the offender is found guilty.
The police executed a warrant on the Valley Drive property against Frederick Lamothe on Aug. 6, uncovering a sophisticated grow operation with 167 mature marijuana plans, plus roughly 170 clones. Lamothe, 47, was arrested for production of a controlled substance, and Whistler Fire Rescue issued a "no occupancy" notice for the property until it could be inspected and found to be safe.
On Sept. 11, the Crown issued a restraint order against the property. If Lamothe is found guilty of production, then his house could be sold as a punitive measure if the judge feels its proportional to the crime. According to BC Assessments, the property was valued at roughly $660,000 last year.
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