As part of an Ontario Provincial Police implementation project pursuing cannabis on the black market, investigators say they have uncovered sophisticated operations linked to organized crime and marijuana exports to the United States.
“We see individuals coming (and) buying rich agricultural properties, existing greenhouse properties, which makes it easier for them to then return to these illegal cannabis production sites,” explained OPP Det.-Insp . Jim Walker, who is with the service organized crime enforcement office as well as the Provincial Joint Cannabis Implementation Team (PJFCET).
“It’s a lucrative environment for organized crime to generate money and a revenue stream.”
Police said PJFCET has been active for two years and is responsible for cannabis enforcement and investigating criminal enterprises that are exploiting or abusing the legal cannabis market. Since May, the task force has been involved in dozens of cases which have resulted in the seizure of millions of dollars worth of product and equipment used to grow, cultivate and distribute marijuana.
Despite the closed borders, investigators said many of Canada’s illegal marijuana is being shipped south and the proceeds are being returned in the form of cash, firearms and other drugs.
“This is organized crime taking advantage of the ability to make huge revenue streams through this commodity,” Walker said.
“What the public needs to know is when they buy it from the illegal black market, their money is just facilitating other crimes.”
Officials said the criminals are using the Health Canada medical cannabis regime by exploiting people with Health Canada records and selling the product on the black market.
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“What we are seeing is more serious allegations of marijuana possession or marijuana trafficking, large quantities and the export of marijuana charges are coming through the court system right now, so what that means is that people are sending marijuana overseas. , in the US and other counties, ”explained Daniel Brown, vice president of the Association of Criminal Lawyers.
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“People who sell and worry like they have a license to sell marijuana when they just don’t have it.”
Police destroyed a $ 42 million large-scale production and distribution network in August through Project Woolwich, a year-long investigation that resulted in several arrests of people in the Niagara Falls and Greater Toronto Area.
The investigation was multi-jurisdictional and identified the people involved in the production, wholesale distribution and sale of illegal cannabis. There was an international component to the investigation as investigators seized illegal cannabis shipments destined for the United States, as well as two large US currency shipments destined for Canada.
Investigators said they believe the individuals charged in this investigation were also responsible for large shipments of illegal cannabis to Ontario from British Columbia.
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“Cross-border law enforcement cooperation between the United States and Canada is extremely essential to dismantling transnational criminal organizations that use our common border to carry out their illegal smuggling activity,” said Michael Buckley, a Homeland Security investigation. near the US Embassy in Ottawa.
“[The investigation] clearly states that critical sharing of information can lead to the successful dissolution of criminal organizations in both countries. ”
In all, 15 people were charged with 135 felonies under the Cannabis Act, Controlled Drugs and Substances and the Canadian Penal Code.
OPP is expected to release more information regarding the cases in which the specialized unit has been working in the coming days.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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