This week marked another decisive step in Ballarat police’s attempts to put the brakes on what appears to be a burgeoning regional cannabis industry.
The two latest raids on suspected grow houses in Ballarat this week bring the total number to 15 houses in just over six months. So far the amount of cannabis seized has an estimated street value of over $8 million dollars. This is big business and it is illegal business. While the quietly determined work of the police units working on these operations may not have broken the back of the clandestine industry, it has certainly put the spotlight on something larger.
In an age when medical cannabis is being touted in the press and a lot of people wonder at all the fuss over “a little bit of weed”, it is worth remembering this is not a couple of bush-bud plants cultivated amongst the tomatoes. Many of the grow houses are suspected to be sophisticated and highly profitable operations.
Moreover the history shows these are profits that are flowing directly into the coffers of organised crime. This is also money suspected of being used to produce or peddle more harmful drugs, devastating to so many families and communities or simply bolster more sinister activities.
Nor could this be said to be in any way a victimless crime. Houses are torn apart to grow quick crops and the risk from fires is multiplied by the dodgy wiring rigged up to suck up eight times the average household power. Past cases have also shown that the house sitters are the lowest and most exploited in the ruthless pyramid of crime. Sometimes with gambling debts or simply cash strapped, they end up being the loser fall-guys while more devious and far richer organisers pocket the profits and often go free.
The latest round of seizures is cause for congratulations to Ballarat police in their efforts to make some troubling dents in this machine. Higher rents and vigilance in Melbourne may be pushing the grow houses out into the regions but it would be fair to say nobody wants one of these toxic, potential firebombs next to their house. Every step that shows to those planning such endeavours that regional communities will not tolerate this intrusion and that their dreamed off nefarious profits will literally go up in smoke is a step toward a safer city. The community can play their part too and remain vigilant about just what is going on in their street.
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