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Complacency about recreational pot makes it difficult to find grow-ops: report

CALGARY - An Alberta government report says complacency about recreational pot use and fear of reprisals makes it difficult to find and shut down marijuana grow-ops.

The report makes dozens of recommendations that include a public campaign about the dangers of grow operations and how to recognize them.

Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis said last year when he ordered a review that illegal marijuana grow-ops in the province have reached a chronic' level and ideas were needed on how to deal with them.

Input was sought from police agencies, municipalities, fire officials and health, safety and building investigators. Utility, mortgage and real-estate companies and community leagues were also consulted.

"Complacency about the recreational use of marijuana, a general lack of awareness about the signs indicating the presence of a (marijuana grow operation), the dangers associated with growing marijuana indoors, uncertainty about to whom to report suspicious activity and perhaps a fear of reporting are all factors that contribute to underreporting," reads the report prepared by Rick Fraser, associate minister of public safety.

It's estimated that 1,000 to 5,000 grow-ops exist under the radar in Calgary alone.

The report suggests mandatory safety inspections of homes that have been used to grow marijuana and that mortgage lenders and insurance companies be required to report suspected grow-ops.

"Currently, there is no requirement in Alberta for mortgage lenders and insurance companies to notify the local police or the municipality if they are aware a property is or was a (grow-op). Mould, air quality, the presence of chemicals in the dwelling, electrical deficiencies and structural integrity issues are all potential dangers."

Another recommendation is for a law that would require landlords to inspect a property yearly and evict a tenant immediately if a grow-op were discovered.

"Rental properties are popular among marijuana grow operators. Without knowing the signs of a grow-op, landlords may be unaware they are looking at evidence ... on their rental property," Fraser said.

He warned that changes would take a "significant amount of co-operation and co-ordination" to implement.

Fraser would like more reports to keep track of progress.

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