A very unlikely resource has helped authorities in Northern Ireland locate and raid a marijuana grow operation less than 15 miles from the Parliament building in Belfast. Detectives were tipped off about the cultivation center thanks to a ‘Scratch and Sniff’ card campaign that began in September of this year. Authorities distributed these scratch and sniff cards to citizens of Northern Ireland, aiming to help residents recognize illegal marijuana cultivation facilities, and report them to the Irish police called gardaí.
The card is printed with a circle that apparently resonates the scent of growing cannabis plants when scratched. Writing next to the scratch and sniff circle reassures smellers that sniffing it is safe, with the statement, “It is completely safe; there are no drugs in the card, it is just the smell of the plant.” Also on the scratch and sniff card, is the following list describing what the local authorities say are typical details of a “cannabis factory”:
- A strong sickly sweet smell.
- Covered or blackened out windows around a property.
- Constant lighting day and night.
- High levels of heat and condensation.
- Constant buzz of ventilation.
- Excessive amount of cables.
Cannabis use and cultivation are illegal in Ireland under the Misuse of Drugs Acts of 1977 and 1984. Possession of a small amount of personal use cannabis does not come with as severe a punishment as possessing and cultivating a large amount that may convey an intent to distribute.
According to detectives of the Organized Crime Branch, this cultivation center raided in Millisle resulted in the destruction of 800 plants worth an estimated £400,000, and is the largest center to be shut down from a scratch and sniff campaign tip. At the current exchange rate, that amount is equivalent to about $626,660.
In response to the scratch and sniff cards distributed by the gardaí, the local chapter of NORML distributed similar cards with the headline, “Scratch and sniff to see if you can recognize the smell of hysterical propaganda.”
photo credit: The Guardian, Macleans, Substance, NORML-UK