VIDEO: Thousands of Pot Plants Seized in Leamington

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Leamington has been tied to alleged organized criminal manipulation of medical marijuana grow operations as part of an investigation dubbed Project Moon.

York Regional Police say more than half a ton of cannabis was seized along with other drugs and weapons as part of a year-long probe into an alleged Asian drug ring in Vaughan, Ont.

 

More than 7,000 allegedly illegal cannabis plants were seized from one farm in Leamington alone as part of simultaneous raids across southern Ontario on July 24.

The investigation has led to charges against more than 40 people, according to police. Det. Sgt. Doug Bedford tells CTV News the accused took advantage of legitimate medical marijuana licences issued by Health Canada.

"These are people who are supposed to grow cannabis for their own medical needs or they're supposed to grow it for somebody else's medical need," he says. "Instead of that happening, all of the cannabis is going straight to the illicit market."

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A handout breaking down illegal drugs, property and weapons seized as part of Project Moon. Aug. 8, 2019 (Photo courtesy of York Regional Police)

Bedford says those licences were then pooled together.

"They are pooling licences together or they're selling those licences or leasing the licences that are associated with a property that have been issued by Health Canada," says Bedford "The people on the licence have nothing to do with the operation."

Det. Insp. Jim Walker tells CTV News illegal growers simply exploited the system.

"A person will have a licence to grow say 200-plants, but it becomes easy for an individual to grow 300 or 400-plants because of a possible lack of inspections," he added.

More than 20,000 cannabis plants were seized by police across Ontario as part of the investigation. 

Police also seized more than 560-kg of dried cannabis — packaged and likely ready to ship to the U.S.

Investigators say one of the groups used marijuana sales to fund the manufacture of methamphetamine, ecstasy, marijuana resin and mushrooms.  

A second probe led to a large seizure of fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine.

— with files from CTV News and The Canadian Press.