Growing Problem Of Cannabis Farms

Cannabis cultivation is booming behind the closed doors of suburban Britain, a study published today has found. Police are raiding three indoor production sites a day and have closed down 1,500 cannabis farms in London alone since 2005, a threefold increase over the previous two years.

But their success in the capital means quiet residential streets elsewhere in the country now harbour foreign drugs gangs making hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

Research by the charity DrugScope suggests that nearly two thirds of the cannabis sold in the UK is now grown here compared to just 10 per cent a decade ago.

Police say that 80 per cent of farms have more than 50 plants, with an average of 400 plants recovered per raid. Most are using simple growing systems – overhead lights, fans and plant pots – with one in 10 farms using more expensive and technical hydroponic systems.

DrugScope’s analysis of nationwide police raids shows that up to three-quarters of the farms were run by Vietnamese criminal gangs, and they are no longer confined to Greater London. In the past year, Vietnamese-run farms have been found in south Wales, Birmingham, East Anglia, Yorkshire and the North-East.

But as the police chalk up successes against the gangs, and local supplies have dried up, there have been reports in recent months of cannabis being adulterated, apparently to increase its weight.

Equipment can cost up to £50,000 to buy and install, but the rewards are high. A single farm can produce up to £250,000 of the class C drug each year and London-based syndicates made an estimated £100 million last year.

The maximum penalty for cannabis cultivation and dealing is 14 years in jail but most growers believe it is less of a risk than class A substances such as heroin.