Cannabis Growers Turn Indoors


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New Zealand cannabis has gone from basic bush weed to high quality seedless head as growers cultivate the country's herb indoors. Kiwi cannabis growers are moving indoors.

Sixty-nine per cent of the country's cannabis seized outside the annual summer helicopter operation is produced indoors, under lights and in controlled conditions which allow growers to produce five or six generations of high-quality weed a year.

Drug experts from Police National Headquarters say indoor cannabis cultivation is prominent around New Zealand.

Of the 25,582 cannabis plants seized by district police last year, 64% came from soil-based indoor operations and an additional 5% came from indoor hydroponic growing systems.

A further 118,457 plants were seized under the 2006 National Cannabis and Crime Operation, the annual outdoor summer operation.

Police say the trend to indoor cultivation started in the early 1990s with the importation of strong-yielding high-THC strains, known for their superior genetic structure.

Cloning, or taking cuttings from mother plants for regeneration, and controlled selective pollination, has ensured the regeneration and development of the top cannabis lines.

Drug experts say the radical changes applied to the indoor environment have been equally applied to outdoor-grown plants.

Now only the highest grade of cannabis — seedless head from the non-pollinated female plant — is sold on the country's streets, reaching $300 for an ounce (28 grams), or $20 a tinnie.

There is little or no market for second-grade seeded head while "cabbage" — plant foliage — is used only to make cannabis oil, police say.

However, the shift indoors has made detection challenging for police, with most indoor operations identified through investigation, or the detection of other criminal offending.

Detective John Nicholls, of the Motueka police, said effective and well-maintained indoor systems grew very good quality plants, be it tomatoes or cannabis.

Most indoor cannabis growers produced a very good product from imported seeds, with the bonus of being able to produce crops in a controlled environment all year round and at will.

Indoor growing was not necessarily solely hydroponic, as growers could cultivate plants in potted soil with the appropriate lighting, he said.

"People's ingenuity means they play around and come up with a hybrid system which works very well for them."

However, indoor growing raised the culpability of cultivators, he said.

"It's kind of hard to deny it's yours when it's growing in the back bedroom, and that's the disadvantage — you get caught and you are screwed.

"It has its pros and cons — they don't have to drive miles, stash their car and dive into the bush to check their plants, but they do have to worry about the increased power bill, the expense of setting it up and the difficulty of explaining it away when they do get caught," Nicholls said.

Indoor cannabis was generally commercial and judges took a dimmer view of growers facing charges over a well set up indoor system.

Police came across indoor grow rooms either by accident or by design when they executed warrants, he said.

Growers looked at the garage, a shed, the bathroom, a spare bedroom, or a bunker built under the house to convert into grow rooms. And indoor growing equipment seized by police was always destroyed.

"As far as we are concerned, it is just another way of growing," Nicholls said.

Hydroponic cannabis had been around since the system was developed, and its use had increased exponentially as the number of people skilled in the method increased.

"The more it is out there, the more it is used. I wouldn't say there is a growing trend towards it, but I don't think there is any secret in the fact that you can grow very good cannabis hydroponically. And the good old New Zealand number-8 wire technology means people will find a way of doing anything."

Cannabis growers often spent an inordinate amount of time and energy growing their crop.

"It is extremely rare to find a cannabis grower of any description having a vegetable garden, let alone a good one," Nicholls said.

Nelson's Exotic Indoors manager Kevin Yates said not all his hydroponics customers grew tomatoes.

"It would be unthinkable to assume some were not growing cannabis," he said.

However, it was "great if today's cannabis growers used their experience to become future vegetable producers".

Most of his customers were urban hydroponic vegetable growers who wanted a year- round supply of fresh, spray-free produce, he said.

Nelson Switched On Gardener manager Helen Fielding said a broad spectrum of customers, seeking to sustainably grow their own vegetables year-round, turned to hydroponics.

The Pascoe Street store, which also stocks marijuana paraphernalia and Norml magazines, focused on supplying the hobbyist hydroponic grower.

The Switched On Gardener chain, which began in Auckland 10 years ago, now has 14 stores around New Zealand.

Included in the range are the latest double-floored reflective indoor grow tents, that can be set up in minutes and can come with total hydroponic systems.

New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said it was a fallacy that cannabis in New Zealand was getting stronger.

He was not aware of any proven substantiating scientific results, or seeing increased mental health problems.

"But one thing we are good at in New Zealand is growing good cannabis and no-one is complaining about the lack of pot."

Indoor growing kept marijuana prices, and availability, seasonally consistent and negated all the efforts police put into pulling out plants, he said.

"My concern is we are too caught up in controlling supply and do not put out good information to users, and potential users, about the harms of marijuana," Bell said.

Indoor growing was old news.

Cannabis was a health issue, not one of criminal culpability, he said.

News Mod: CoZmO - 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2007 Fairfax New Zealand Limited
Website: Cannabis growers turn indoors - South Island
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