West Shore RCMP busted a clandestine lab after being called to the scene of a fire caused by chemically extracting cannabis in View Royal.
On June 20 at about 9 p.m., West Shore RCMP received a request from the View Royal Fire Department to assist with a suspicious residential fire.
The fire department told police the fire originated in the basement unit kitchen which was rented by a 35-year-old woman. She had suffered burns to her arms.
After arriving on scene, West Shore RCMP officers learned the fire was caused by chemically extracting cannabis and the Crime Reduction Unit headed up the investigation.
A search warrant was executed on the property on June 21 with the help of the BC RCMP Clandestine Lab Team. The View Royal Fire Department and the CRD Hazmat team were also on standby and provided decontamination support for officers who exited the home after the search.
Upon entering the basement unit of the house, they found a “sophisticated, large-scale, clandestine lab that was allegedly producing a chemically derived highly concentrated form of cannabis know as ‘shatter,’” according to West Shore RCMP.
Currently, shatter cannot be legally purchased in Canada. It is also illegal under the Cannabis Act to produce cannabis beyond personal cultivation limits or with the use of solvents.
Police said the Crime Reduction Unit seized numerous pieces of evidence including approximately 100 pounds of dried cannabis, cannabis resin and oil along with shatter in various stages of production and over $1,000 in cash.
According to police, a substantial quantity of flammable and explosive materials such as acetone solvents and over 500 canisters and tanks of used butane was found. There was also high-quality commercial grade lab equipment, including industrial ovens, high-end steel extractors and laboratory glassware within the basement suite.
“Producing ‘shatter’ involves the use of organic solvents which is an extremely dangerous criminal activity,” said Const. Pollock of the West Shore RCMP Crime Reduction Unit. “The investigation is on-going. A variety of charges relating to drug production and distribution under the Cannabis Act and other potential Criminal Code offences are being sought.”
Police said the lab was in an area bordering parks and children’s playgrounds. Const. Nancy Saggar of West Shore RCMP said there are also children living in the unit above the basement suite and that there is evidence of a child in the suite as well.
“I don’t believe there was a child present at the time our investigators showed up however children’s toys, clothing and all the indicators were there that there was definitely a child who is likely staying there or possibly living there,” Saggar said.
According to Saggar, Child Protection Services is involved.
Saggar said there is no indication that the landlord of the rental suite had any information regarding the clandestine lab, however West Shore RCMP is still investigating. She said gang involvement is also an avenue of investigation that police are looking into.
Saggar said labs like this one are very dangerous, not just to people living in the home but to neighbours and people walking by on the street as well.
“Any time you’ve got the combination of butane and acetone and of course the oxygen that’s in the room with an ignition point like an oven, it’s very dangerous,” Saggar said. “All it takes is a spark and a certain amount of butane in the air to cause a massive explosion.”