Police charge two men with running illegal cannabis grow-op at Health Canada licensed facility north of Toronto


Two Quebec men have been charged with running an illegal cannabis grow-op in King Township after York Regional Police seized 288 kilograms of harvested cannabis and more than 4,000 plants, which police say have an estimated street value of $6.5 million.

There were three Health Canada licenses for the facility, which allowed for each license holder or a designate to grow 875 plants on their behalf for medical purposes, but the operation at the site far exceed this, police said.

Police said they discovered 22 greenhouses on the property at 570 Strawberry Lane, where the plants were grown in an unsafe manner, with no quality control, environmental considerations or security measures.

Two men who police said were maintaining the plants have been charged, after a search warrant was executed by the York Regional Police Organized Crime Bureau — Guns, Gangs and Drug Enforcement Unit.

Sameko Vanvilay, 43, of Laval, Que., and Chi Chung Phan, 36, of Montreal, were charged with producing marijuana and possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.

The charges followed community complaints and a safety inspection last week, police said.

“This criminal enterprise was operating well in excess of Health Canada authorizations to grow cannabis for medical purposes,” York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe said in a prepared statement.

“Over and above the community safety risks associated to unsafe wiring and the use of chemicals, all too often, police are identifying personal and designated production license holders that are growing excessive amounts of cannabis under Health Canada authorizations,” Jolliffe said.

He said that marijuana is “diverted to the illicit market by organized crime groups to supply illegal dispensaries, export outside of Canada and trafficked in our local communities.”