Municpalities hope to use by-laws to fight growing number of marijuana greenhouse homes. 

When things go wrong at a grow-op or drug lab they can go very wrong.

Chemicals used in processing have levelled homes and blown the roofs off the neighbours’ houses.

Fires caused by dangerous amateur hotwiring, common in grow-ops where criminals steal power to avoid detection and nurture growing plants, are a constant threat.

That’s one reason why local RCMP was glad to shut down an elaborate grow-op in Pemberton last week.

"They can be very dangerous," said RCMP Cst. Michelle Nisbet.

When police raided the home in the 1400-block of Hemlock they found over 300 plants valued at more than $250,000.

Along with the plants they seized electrical equipment and other paraphernalia used to produce adult plants.

Nisbet said police suspect there are many outdoor grow-ops in the region as the weather is just right for the plants. But the only way to find them would be to do aerial surveillance on a routine basis.

For the most part there are few grow-ops indoors as the high rents discourage it.

But even Whistler has had a house fire or two thanks to dope growing operations.

But now municipalities are fighting back. Several areas of the Lower Mainland where the number of grow ops and chemical labs is burgeoning are drafting new bylaws aimed at keeping drug growers and manufacturers out of their communities.

And just as the American government finally got crime boss Al Capone for tax evasion, municipal governments are hoping to put grow-ops out of business using building code, health and safety, and fire safety infractions.

It made not sound as sexy as getting the organized crime bosses who run these chemical labs on criminal charges. But the hope is that it will keep them out of communities across B.C.

"We want to send a message really loudly and clearly that we are closing for business," said Chilliwack councillor Sharon Gaetz, chair of a safety committee which drafted a new and sweeping bylaw aimed at getting rid of chemical labs and grow-ops.

"You can't get away with this type of operation in Chilliwack anymore. And it is working, we are taking down two grow-ops a week."

Chilliwack, which officials suspect may have as many as 1,000 grow-ops in operation, shared its new bylaw with 30 other municipalities at the annual conference of the Lower Mainland Municipal Association in Whistler in May.

The bylaw, which is still being worked on in Chilliwack, is sweeping. It gives the municipal inspectors new powers and clearly outlines under what circumstances inspections can happen.

For example, if a resident is suspected of bypassing B.C. Hydro, which estimates $50 million a year of power is stolen, an inspector can go into the home.

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