Read how Canadian marijuana growers team up with
lawless locals to farm “BC Bud” in quiet, upscale neighborhood homes‚
maybe, in a house next door to you! Finally, we can tell this shocking
When they raided a massive indoor pot farm
in this Argay home in January, officials from three anti-drug agencies
asked us to “hold” the story. Now, this shocking tale can be told.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
January 22, a tip from a reader leds us to investigate odd activity at
a nice looking home, still festooned with holiday lights, at 13510 NE
Freemont Court, in the Argay Neighborhood. As we rolled up on scene, we
saw what appeared to be many law enforcement vehicles, both marked and
We were approached by members of the Multnomah
County Sheriff’s Office. They asked why we were there; we told them we
were following up on a tip. They drove off.
Then, a Portland Police Drugs and Vice squad
officer spied us with our camera, and came over enquiring about our
activities. We pointed to our press credential; he shrugged and went
back into the home.
Finally, a Regional Organized Crime Narcotics
Agency (ROCN) investigator, Scott C. Groshong, gave us a hard look, and
questioned our activities. We explained we got a tip that there was a
“massive” law enforcement action on this otherwise quiet Argay side
Members of several law enforcement
agencies swarmed around this nice-looking Argay home. Officials asked
that we didn’t show their many undercover officers and vehicles.
“I can’t ask you to leave,” Groshong told us. “But,
we’d appreciate your cooperation. This is part of a larger drug
operation. If you could hold the story, it would help our
Groshong promised he’d share full details with both
the press and the neighborhood association as the investigation wound
down. We agreed.
Regional Organized Crime Narcotics Agency
(ROCN) investigator Scott Groshong gives an eye-opening show-and-tell
presentation to Argay neighbors. We agreed not to photograph him; he
often works undercover.
Urban farming: Indoor pot grows
Fast forward to March 20‚ the meeting of the Argay Neighborhood Association, at Portland Fire & Rescue Station 2.
After a brief business meeting, neighborhood chair
Valerie Curry introduces the program: the ROCN Task Force report on
marijuana growing operations.
True to his word, ROCN Investigator Groshong steps up, and begins by telling how indoor pot farming came about.
9/11 tightens borders
has a soft policy on drug use,” Groshong begins. “They’ve nearly
legalized marijuana. The majority of the better-quality marijuana crop
is grown in Canada, and sold here for a lot of money. We’re talking
about a crop that sells for thousands of dollars per pound.”
Turning to indoor marijuana growing operations,
Groshong continues, “This is a situation that’s evolved since the 9/11
attack on the World Trade Center. Rather than crossing the border, some
groups found it easier to ‘set up shop’ here in the Pacific Northwest,
and grow here. Crop grown ‘in country’ eliminated the risk of being
apprehended at the border crossing and, at the same time, dramatically
reduced their transport costs.”
Seeded in Seattle
indoor growing trend, Groshong reports, started in Seattle. “They’ve
uncovered at least 80 grow houses there. The houses, dedicated to
growing marijuana, produce between 400 and 600 plants per house. Each
plant will produce a couple of pounds of high quality marijuana.”
This pot isn’t grown by laid-back, happy old
hippies, suggests Groshong. Instead, these operations are run by
organized-crime groups. “We estimate $16 Billion in U.S. currency has
flowed back to Canada. The grow operations in the U.S. help support
their importation of cocaine into Canada.”
While pot has been grown indoors, he added, it is
hard to fit more than fifty to 100 plants in a home that is occupied.
But, with the entire house, garage, and basement dedicated to indoor
farming, one building can produce a lot of marijuana.
Argay neighbors are stunned by the detailed
revelations‚ although several of them said they suspected this activity
was going on in their community, and were glad to see law enforcement
was taking action.
Famed pot farmed in Argay
investigator says pot “grow houses” have been set up across the
Portland metropolitan area. Over the last 18 months, law enforcement
officials have found the grow operations sprouting up houses in outer
Northeast Portland‚ particularly Argay.
“Some of the houses in Argay been relatively large
grows,” Groshong comments. “The house on NE Freemont Court had about
400 plants; this was a relatively small grow. You can see, this is
being done on a commercial scale.”
When asked, “Why Argay?” Groshong says he
suspects the location was almost picked at random. “These are nice,
older homes. If the house is kept up, most neighbors won’t suspect a
house has been turned into a growing operation. And, the older homes
aren’t as airtight. New homes don’t breathe well. Grow operations need
buildings that ‘breathe’.”
The volume of plants grown in these operations defies the imagination.
Houses ruined by indoor farming
Growing so many plants in an enclosed space produces an abundance of heat and moisture.
“In some of the operations we’ve seen,” Groshong
explains, “the water vapor condenses and runs down the walls and
windows. Because of the warmth, mold and mildew grow everywhere.
Typically, a house used for indoor crop production will require as much
as $30,000 to $50,000 worth of renovation before it can be occupied
The plants take between 90 and 120 days to grow;
thus, growers get three “crop cycles” a year out of a house. “We are
seeing the groups move after four to eight growing/harvesting cycles,”
he adds. “With all of the damage inside, I’m surprised the NE Freemont
Court house is now up for sale.”
Years ago, Groshong comments, growers rented
buildings. Nowadays, the group of growers buys houses, usually with
sub-prime loans; they plan to own them for only a short period of time.
Stolen juice and odd smells
takes a lot of “juice”, electricity, to run a growing operation. To
avoid detection, and lower their power bills, the growers have
developed methods of tapping electricity before it reaches the electric
“In addition to growing marijuana, some of these
growers have stolen as much as $60,000 in electricity; it’s a class C
Felony to steal power.”
And, we’re told, a pot farm gives off a strong
odor. Sophisticated operations have knocked holes in walls, ceilings
and floors to install ductwork connected to activated charcoal
filtering systems to reduce the heat and moisture‚ and smell‚ generated
by the operation.
The filter, alone, costs about $600. “Growers spend about $20,000 to set up a grow house,” Groshong tells the group.
The electrical wiring powering lighting and watering equipment is haphazard; often setting the houses on fire.
the grow operations are typically more benign, at least compared to
meth labs, they still present a danger to the neighborhood, he said.
“The substandard wiring, both used to steal power,
and done within the home, often causes fires,” explains Groshong. But
now a new issue is home invasions. When competitors or other criminals
learn where a grow operation is set up, they’ll break in and try to
steal the crop. These people are often armed and dangerous.”
Don’t let your neighborhood become a haven
for pot growers. Read how to spot these commercial “grow houses”‚ and
what to do about it!
Protecting your neighborhood
credits alert citizens for helping them bust several grow-house
operations across the greater Portland area‚ including in outer East
Portland. “One neighbor called to tell us a house ‘didn’t look right’.”
The operators of some houses hire landscapers and
put out holiday decorations. Some clever crooks put some furniture in
the living room area and set lights to operate on timers.
Regardless of the trimmings, look for ‘closed up’
houses that looks like no one is ever there, instructs Groshong. Also,
be on the lookout for “visitors” who stay an hour or so and leave‚
they’re tending the plants. And, there will often be a buzz of activity
in and around this otherwise quiet house, during their plant harvest.
“If you see suspicious activity, call the DVD
Hotline at (503) 823-0246 for the DVE hotline,” Groshong concludes.
“They take complaints and track them. Officers will get the tips and
look at the house. The more calls on a house, the more likely we’ll
look more closely at it.”
¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service