The illegality of cannabis cultivation in the UK has not stopped people from farming the plant. Due to the cold weather and short growing season, indoor farms have proliferated over the last few years. This has led to police using heat seeking sensors to detect indoor cannabis farming operations but paradoxically, burglars have been known to use the similar methods to raid growers’ crops.
Policing marijuana production in the UK
Over the past decade or so, the police in the UK have become much more lenient towards cannabis users, often turning a blind eye to those growing or possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use. However, the UK police force will continue to target large scale cannabis farms, and they will go after traffickers and and others involved in criminal activities associated with its production. Only those growing and using small quantities at home will not be generally be pursued. The police in the UK, in areas such as County Durham, recognise that there are more pressing problems and that pursuing cannabis users is a waste of time and money.
In the UK, cannabis is categorised as a Class B drug which includes amphetamines, barbiturates, cannabis, codeine, ketamine, Ritalin, synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones (eg mephedrone, methoxetamine). Penalties under British law for possession is of these drugs is up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both, while supply and production carries a penalty of up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. Cannabis is illegal to possess, grow, distribute or sell in the UK without the appropriate licences.
In order to catch large scale cannabis producers, police in the UK use heat-sensitive cameras on helicopters. Glowing patches on roofs or walls are picked up on the high-tech equipment and are a give away sign of cannabis production because the plants require significant heat and light input to grow.
Thieves use drones to spot cannabis producers in the UK
Some thieves wanting a quick cash crop of cannabis do not bother with the slow, painstaking process of growing and harvesting plants themselves. One burglar in the UK noticed police helicopters used thermal imaging cameras to find cannabis farms and quickly adapted the method to suit himself. He bought a second-hand heat-seeking camera online and hooked it up to his iPad. By his own admission, he noted that it was not even necessary to use violence to get the crops he found in this, due to fear of being caught by the growers involved. After finding properties containing cannabis plants, thieves either burgle or extort money from their victims.
A report on commercial cannabis cultivation by he Association of Chief Police Officers found that the police were discovering as many as 21 farms per day in the UK. The report continued by saying “There has been an increase in robberies, burglaries and violence including the use of firearms linked to cannabis farms. There is evidence of taxing (stealing) of crops and debt bondage being used to control local individuals.”