Lindsay Charlton – Sep 26, 2019
While the legalization of cannabis may have eliminated some drug-related crimes — another may be budding for green thumbs.
In the early hours of Sept. 15, someone snuck into a Colchester man’s backyard wearing what appears to be a balaclava and stole four of his legal pot plants — all caught on video. The property ovner, who did not want to be named, saw the footage on his security camera and reported the incident to police.
“I spent a bunch of money, I spent the time. I was going to end up with something I didn’t have to purchase through OCS (Ontario Cannabis Store),” he said. “It’s a prideful thing, it’s all of that. And then, in the end, someone steals your stuff.”
Essex County OPP confirmed the report, but with the investigation ongoing would not provide further details.
Since cannabis became legal last October residents are permitted to grow up to four plants on their property.
The man said he works shifts and uses cannabis to help him sleep. As a hobby gardener, he decided to grow marijuana plants for the first time this year, which he called a labour of love.
“I spent hundreds of hours tending to these since the late spring or early summer,” he said. “I would go out twice a day — minimum, just to kind of see how everything’s doing.”
Meanwhile, instances of stolen cannabis plants have been reported throughout Southwestern Ontario.
Two masked men stabbed an Oshawa man Saturday after he confronted them while they were in his backyard stealing marijuana.
Recently, a Welland man posted signs at the end of his driveway seeking witnesses for the theft of his plants. In Port Dover, a homeowner chased away an intruder who stole pot plants from a home in July. And earlier this month London police caught a plant thief after an ID was left at the scene, though no charges were laid.
London police spokesperson Const. Sandasha Bough said she can’t say if the issue is growing, since they don’t have enough documentation yet, but said there have been 11 reported incidents since the legislation changed.
While it can be difficult to determine the monetary value of a cannabis plant it can range from $400 to more than $1,000.
“I’ve come to the conclusion I’ve lost what I’ve lost. I’m never going to recover that,” said the Colchester man, who nevertheless hopes to bring awareness to the trend. “But I want to make sure this never happens again, or at least people think twice about it.”
OPP spokesman Const. Jim Root said he hasn’t heard of any similar situations in Essex County but said that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.
“The novelty’s still there with all this marijuana being legalized and people keeping more than they’re supposed to and so on and so forth so it will be something we keep an eye on for sure,” he said. “But I haven’t heard of it being a problem yet, anyway.”
Jon Liedtke, co-host of the Cannabis Act podcast, said this is the time of year where plants start to reach their full maturity and potency — allowing thieves to sniff them out.
“It’s not surprising with legalization we’re seeing more instances of people’s plants getting taken away from them,” he said. “It’s really unfortunate because people spend four or five months trying to grow something, now doing it for the first time, in many cases. It would be very upsetting to have that taken away.”
Liedtke said pot pinching is why many enthusiasts choose to grow indoors, an entirely different operation that requires more equipment, such as high-powered lighting.
He recommended security measures for outdoor growing such as an enclosed backyard, small greenhouses, or motion-sensor lights, but notes it’s still a risk. People want pot, after all.
The man said he knows others who’ve lost pot plants to thieves — but chose not to report it.
Liedtke said some would-be gardeners may decide the “time and effort” of involving police is too much, cut their losses and order online.
He said theft happens to a lot of outdoor growers, especially in heavily populated neighbourhoods. While he recommends people report to police he said there are many reasons someone may choose not to, including stigma.
“It hasn’t been legal yet for a full year so for a lot of people they might have the nerve to walk into a store, place an order online or to maybe even grow but to walk into the police station and say ‘Hey I’ve had four of my plants stolen,’” Liedtke said. “People might think it would bring unnecessary scrutiny even though it’s a legal right.”