02/22/2013 03:17 EST | Updated 04/24/2013 05:12 EDT

Alberta Looking For Ideas On How To Shut Down Marijuana Grow-Ops

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LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 7: Marijuana plants grow at Perennial Holistic Wellness Center, a not-for-profit medical marijuana dispensary in operation since 2006, on September 7, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. A group of activists have submitted about 50,000 signatures in an effort to force a referendum on a marijuana dispensary ban in Los Angeles to take effect next week. A minimum of 27,425 valid signatures from registered voters is needed to let voters decide on the issue in March, and until the number can be verified, the ban will not be enforced. . The ban would not prevent patients or cooperatives of two or three people to grow their own in small amounts. Californians voted to legalize medical cannabis use in 1996, clashing with federal drug laws. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

CALGARY - Alberta's justice minister says illegal marijuana grow-ops in the province have reached a "chronic" level and ideas are needed on how to deal with them.

Jonathan Denis announced plans Friday to get input from the public and relevant groups on ways to address health and safety concerns and to tackle criminal activity that stems from the illegal operations.

"What I'm interested in is what we can do as a province to address issues such as the grow-op you see behind me and to try and improve people's lives — and also to try and shut down the proceeds of organized crime,” said Denis, who used a former grow-op home with a red security fence in northeast Calgary as a backdrop.

"Marijuana grow-ops pose a serious risk to the safety and health of Albertans, lead to increased organized criminal activity and are becoming a chronic presence throughout the province."

The province is asking a panel to hold consultations across the province. Members of the public can also make their voice heard by completing an online survey.

Input is being sought from police agencies, municipalities, fire officials and health, safety and building investigators, as well as from utility, mortgage and real estate companies and community leagues.

Denis said discussions are to focus on fire, electrical and structural hazards, how to remediate a home after a grow-op is dismantled and health issues involving chemical contamination and mould.

"There have been many suggestions made to me. For example, I met with the Calgary Real Estate Board and it was suggested to me that we should have an instrument on ... the deed of the house that shows that it was a grow-op because then you protect the next consumer," Denis said.

It’s estimated that 1,000 to 5,000 grow ops exist under the radar in Calgary alone.

Calgary's deputy police chief said the illegal operations bring with them a host of problems.

"We've had quite a large number of fires in a disproportionate way," said Murray Stooke. "We believe that marijuana growers are about 14 times more likely to catch fire than other residences.

"In the last number of years we've had a dozen or more home invasions on marijuana grows, so those are also things that have been a concern to the community."

The consultations are expected to wrap up in May.

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