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Indoor Weed Cultivation On Rise

Smokin Moose

Fallen Cannabis Warrior
Feds Say Outdoor Enforcement Is Driving Operations Inside

The Peninsula has sprouted a number of indoor marijuana cultivators in recent years, but this year in particular, indoor pot grows are popping up -- well, like weeds.

"Indoor grow operations are absolutely on the rise," said Cmdr. Mark Wyss of the county's Narcotics Task Force. "There's a huge profit in indoor growing for operators, and that's the driving trend."

The task force has busted 16 indoor grows so far this year -- and the number could easily rise to twice the amount of indoor marijuana cultivations in 2006.

Last year, local law enforcement shut down 10 indoor grows. In 2005, only seven indoor growers were busted.

The trend of growing marijuana indoors reaches far beyond the county, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report released earlier this month.

California may be a leading state for outdoor marijuana cultivation, but many major cannabis producers are moving their operations indoors, according to the report.

The Department of Justice cites law enforcement's "vigorous" efforts to bust outdoor operations as a primary reason for growers' retreat indoors.

Once cannabis producers make the move indoors, they tend to benefit from higher profits, because cultivation is year-round, and controlled growing conditions help growers produce higher-quality marijuana, according to the report.

"The ones who know what they're doing are genetically engineering theirplants to have a higher THC concentration," said Advertisement Special Agent Gordon Taylor of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. "There's so much money to be made in high-potency marijuana."

That's just one of the advantages to growing indoors versus outdoors, according to Wyss.

"If you're operating in a residential neighborhood and putting on the disguise that you're just living in a single-family dwelling," Wyss said, "a grow could go on for an extended period of time without being detected."

One troubling aspect of the indoor cultivation boom is the number of people who have converted entire homes into marijuana grow rooms, Wyss said. Prior to 2003, the nature of indoor cultivation in the county was very different.

"Five years ago, you wouldn't come across a whole house converted into a grow," Wyss said. "You would find a spare closet where someone had rigged fluorescent lights and grow marijuana in that environment."

Now, Wyss said, such old-school techniques are out of fashion. The marijuana busts in recent years have involved homes filled with marijuana and grown with high-powered lighting fueled by stolen electricity.

To conceal their operations, many producers go to elaborate lengths -- including sealing windows or using electronically-timed lights to simulate the turning-on-and-off of lights characteristic of a normal residence.

Last week, the task force busted two indoor pot operations; both were in middle-class neighborhoods in Daly City.

The rush to indoor cultivation isn't just alarming law enforcement but also marijuana advocates.

Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project, a national marijuana advocacy group, points to the spread of indoor cultivation in San Mateo County as a natural outgrowth of a local and federal law enforcement crackdown on cannabis.

"If you want criminal gangs moving in next door to grow marijuana, if you want to make those criminals unbelievably rich, and if you want to guarantee that marijuana becomes more potent, current policies are working perfectly," Mirken said.

"If you think that's crazy," he added, "then it's time for California to regulate marijuana production, just like we regulate wine."

Source: San Mateo County Times, The (CA)
Copyright: 2007 ANG Newspapers
Contact: smctletters@bayareanewsgroup.com
Website: Inside Bay Area - San Mateo County Times - Home
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