- October 30, 2020
SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) — Recreational marijuana sales legally began nearly two years ago in the Bay State. But it’s the illegal growth and sale of marijuana that police said causes violent crimes in neighborhoods.
Now, fire hazards with the potential to turn a small blaze into an inferno. All of these public safety hazards, Springfield Police said, are linked back to the illegal growing and sale of marijuana.
“You’re talking about horrific, violent crime, and often in residential neighborhoods that you wouldn’t expect,” said Springfield Police Narcotics Captain Brian Keenan.
Keenan told Western Mass News he’s seeing more illegal grow operations than before recreational pot sales began legally two years ago. Part of it, he said, is driven by the demand for marijuana, that’s cheaper than what you’d find in a dispensary.
[How much less expensive is it?]
“I would say up to 50 percent,” he said.
Less restrictive laws, requiring 50 pounds in the home, before it’s a felony…
“The risk is relatively low,” he noted. “Marijuana is a giant cash cow.”
Keenan told us that the cash cow is turning into a raging bull of violence.
From November of 2018 to October 2020, Springfield Police said there were 38 homicides in the city, and 12 of them were related, either directly or indirectly, to illegal marijuana…and that’s just homicides.
“60-70 percent of the home invasions are due to marijuana,” Keenan explained.
In November of 2019, a Roosevelt home was invaded. Police said the person inside was on fire and tortured in the basement of the Roosevelt home., where an illegal growing operation was occurring.
Earlier that year, a man was shot several times and killed in this Francis Street home, which housed rooms full of illegal marijuana plants. Springfield Police said the suspects in this murder are being held in other states [and] on murder charges that are related to marijuana.
On Liberty Street in September, firefighters rushed to the scene of a beauty shop fire and discovered something else growing besides flames in other parts of the building.
“We came across a large marijuana grow operation going on in the warehouse behind and above where the fire was located,” said Springfield Fire Commissioner B.J. Calvi
Tools Calvi told Western Mass News are used to manufacture cannabis products, that can also become dangerous if ignited.
“They actually used butane to take the THC off the vegetation, and then they evaporate off the butane to get a pure product, and the butane creates a large fire hazard,” he explained.
Police said houses that grow tend to have a few features you can notice from the outside.
First, officials said there’s usually not a lot of people coming and going from the homes. Second, the windows are often blacked out or covered in plastic, and there’s often air-conditioning running 24/7, along with high-grade marijuana. You may even smell it from the outside.
“Sometimes there’s booby-trapped doorways and windows,” Keenan added. “Often, there [are] surveillance cameras around the entire property.”
He also said regularly, electrical systems at these operations are rigged, outside of code regulations. This to support grow lights and ventilation systems.
On Liberty Street, part of the building where they found marijuana ended up getting condemned.
Within the last three years, Springfield Police have found at least three large-scale growing operations in the city. Illegal marijuana was also found in multiple addresses in Monson and Palmer this past summer.
“Marijuana growing’s not an urban problem,” Keenan noted.
For the people willing to buy this cheaper marijuana, Springfield Police warn, it’s supporting an industry fueled by violence.
“The legalization of marijuana has resulted in a whole new subculture of people,” he said. “They’ve always been a problem, but they’re more regular now, more common than they were in the past.
Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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