By Castulo Zane

When houses or buildings are used by the drug trade to grow marijuana, those buildings are referred to as grow ops. When they are in residences they are termed grow houses. Police forces say that there are at least 50,000 grow ops in Canada.

The number keeps growing. Every community in the country is exposed to the risks from marijuana grow ops. They operate in every city, town and rural area across Canada. They are in big cities and little towns.

Grow houses are often located in residential areas, but the can also be found in commercial and agricultural locales. Sometimes they are clustered together, sometimes even on the same street.

With time the growers gain more knowledge and experience. To avoid getting caught they take great pains to make the house look lived in. Often crop sitters will live in the house, giving it a semblance of normalcy.

Rented properties were the preferred vehicle for many years, but a combination of money laundering and profitability has led to some properties being purchased specifically for growing marijuana. Sometimes the structures are built specially for growing, with features to combat mold, odor and humidity.

They come in all sizes. Small grow ops in a basement closet or huge ones in an industrial size greenhouse - they are everywhere. The largest one reported by police was in Brampton, Ontario, in a de-comissioned brewery. It contained 25,000 plants worth an estimated 30 million dollars. This is not a typical grow op.

While the industry has steadily grown, some parts of the country are more exposed to it than others - specifically BC, Ontario and Quebec. There are regional differences - in Quebec about 40% of the crop is grown indoors while in BC it's more like 70%.

Growing marijuana is popular because it is profitable. Growers are enticed by low risk and lenient sentences. Marijuana cultivation is becoming a major business.

According to law enforcement the small growers are being replaced by bigger, organized criminal enterprises. good returns and low risks make this an attractive activity. Growing demand and acceptance coupled with light penalties means grow ops will be with us for years to come.

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