Calgary Police Service

Clandestine labs

Marijuana growing operations

Illegal marijuana grow operations can be found in any community throughout the city. Marijuana grow operations come with serious fire and health hazards.

Investigating, locating and dismantling illegal marijuana grow operations improves public safety and has a direct and significant impact on the ability of organized crime groups to finance their illegal activities.

Within your community, things to look for that may be indicative of a marijuana grow operation include:

  • Windows covered or blacked out
  • Sweating, staining, condensation or wet spots on the siding, stucco or foundation
  • Snow melted on the rooftop in the winter months
  • Electrical meters appearing to be altered or tampered with
  • Occupants of the residence rarely or never seen, or coming and going at odd times
  • Vehicles coming and going from the residence directly in and out of the garage
  • Minimal furniture inside the residence and lights on timers
  • Garbage disposal minimal or non-existent
  • A yard that is not well kept
  • Surveillance systems installed to monitor the exterior of the residence
  • ‘Skunky’ smell coming from the residence

The legality of growing marijuana:

  • People are allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants per household without a permit
  • If someone gets a prescription from a doctor to grow marijuana, they can apply to Health Canada for a permit to grow numerous marijuana plants
  • Designated people may grow marijuana on behalf of someone else
  • See the Health Canada website for details

Methamphetamine labs

A clandestine lab is a secret or concealed location where criminals produce or prepare synthetic drugs. This can include methamphetamine and MDMA (also known as "ecstasy"). Most of Canada's meth and MDMA supply is produced domestically by organized crime.

The two most common types of clandestine labs are:

Economic-based lab or "super lab"

Large-scale, highly organized labs generally tied to organized crime where drugs are produced for the purpose of exporting.

Addiction-based lab or "user lab"

Small-scale, makeshift labs that generally produce just enough drugs for use by themselves and their close associates.

Within your community, things to look for that may be indicative of a meth lab include:

  • From outside
    • Pungent smells, such as black licorice and ammonia or vinegar
    • Windows covered, blacked out, or with the curtains always drawn
    • Staining around vents, extreme corrosion and unusual, coloured vapour emitting from vents
    • Extensive security measures or attempts to ensure privacy including cameras, several locks on exterior doors, and "beware of dog" signs
    • Large quantities of chemical containers, bottles, metal drums, fibre (cardboard) barrels in waste and recycling bins
    • Suspicious containers where labels have been removed or spray painted over
    • Burn pits, stained soil, or dead vegetation indicating dumped chemicals or waste around the yard and landscaping
  • From inside
    • Large amount of empty cold medication containers containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine
    • Red stains on countertops, bathtubs, sinks or toilets
    • Laboratory glassware and equipment including cookware (Pyrex) or frying pans with powdery residue and bottles with rubber tubing attached to other chemicals
    • Coffee filters with white pasty substances or shiny white crystals or reddish-brown substance
    • Excessive amounts of cat litter used to soak up chemical spills
    • See the Royal Canadian Mounted Police website for more details

Fentanyl labs

Unlike other clandestine drug labs, those used for producing illicit fentanyl tend to be smaller due to the extreme toxicity. Makeshift drug labs are increasing in Canada and have been found just about anywhere; in rented homes and apartments, motel rooms, rental trucks, abandoned buildings, barns and garden sheds.

Be alert for signs of a potential fentanyl drug lab operation, including:

  • Unusual amount of white or coloured powder on walls, floors, countertops, furniture, clothes dryer and vent
  • Unusual thumping sounds that could indicate a pill press machine
  • Chemical odours - often a strong vinegar smell
  • Tenants reluctant to allow landlords to inspect the property
  • Payment of rent in cash
  • Surveillance cameras
  • Curtains always drawn
  • Exhaust fans running at odd times. Residents may wear filtration masks, safety glasses or other protective equipment. May remark that they are ‘painting’

Illicit fentanyl labs are time bombs filled with poisoned air and large amounts of contaminates. Those living around them – sometimes including children – can suffer severe health consequences. After a facility is contaminated, it may be considered an environmental hazard; remediation and clean-up may be the responsibility of the owner and not covered by insurance.

Health and safety hazards of clandestine labs include:

  • Fire and explosion due to tampered or bypassed electrical systems, extreme heat, altered gas lines and combustible chemicals
  • Intentional deterrents such as booby traps and barricaded doors
  • Building code infractions including unapproved changes to create a growing environment, structural damage and illegal gas, water and electrical bypasses
  • Electrocution or shock from faulty altered wiring
  • Mold growth and water damage from high humidity
  • Chemical hazards and poisonous gas from the insecticides, fertilizers and fungicides used in the growing process
  • Risk of criminal activity and violence in the neighbourhood because of a direct link to organized crime
  • Poisoned air


In an emergency always call 911

Non-emergency 403-266-1234