CURTIS RUSH
STAFF REPORTER THESTAR.COM

York Regional Police Chief Armand La Barge is upset that dismantled equipment from marijuana grow operations is finding its way back into the hands of criminals.

The chief issued a press release today calling for the federal government to change the laws governing the way seized property is disposed.

It seems that marijuana grow-lab equipment, previously seized by police, has been sold at auction and then turned up at other grow operations in York Region, La Barge said.

On Aug. 11, marijuana plants valued at $1.1 million were seized at an industrial unit in the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville. Lights, generators, dehumidifiers, fans and other equipment used was seized.

During the dismantling of the equipment, police discovered that some of it had been previously seized at marijuana grow operations by York Regional Police in 1998 and 1999 and in 2002 by members of the Halton Regional Police and London police forces.

It seems that the equipment had been auctioned off by a private liquidation company on behalf of the federal Seized Property Management Directorate, which is responsible for the management of drug paraphernalia confiscated by police forces across the country, La Barge said.

"I find it appalling that confiscated marijuana grow lab equipment is being re-sold to the public and at bargain basement prices," the chief said in the news release. He said he is also concerned about the health risks associated with the re-sale of the equipment, given the mould and chemicals found in grow operations.

La Barge is urging Public Works Minister Scott Brison to make changes to the Seized Property Management Act to ensure that all equipment seized from a marijuana grow operation is destroyed.

In 2003, York Regional Police dismantled 173 marijuana grow operations and seized plants valued at $51 million. In 2004, police have dismantled more than 100 grow operations.

"It is very disheartening to me and to our drug and vice officers that this type of equipment is finding its way back into the hands of criminals," La Barge said.