Marijuana cultivators are taking advantage of depressed real estate markets to buy or rent homes, and turn them into “grow houses.” The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says an increasing number of these houses are in high-end neighborhoods.
The New York Times reports that grow houses are equipped with high-intensity lighting, and air filtration and watering systems, all of which are needed to produce potent, high-quality marijuana.
These houses often do not attract attention until there is a fire, usually caused by unsafe electrical wiring. DEA spokesman Rusty Payne told the newspaper, “They’re buying them in places like Northern California, where the real estate market’s really taken a turn for the worse.”
Grow houses have been found in suburban, residential streets in Northern California, the article notes. More than 70 percent of all marijuana plants confiscated nationwide in 2010 were found in California.
Local police forces, which have been downsized due to financial problems, do not have resources to go after grow houses. Law enforcement officials say California laws have created an environment that is tolerant of marijuana growing.
“Ten years ago if there was a grow house, we’d seize all their equipment and lamps, and they would be prosecuted,” Sergeant Jeff Bassett of the Vallejo, California, Police Department, told the newspaper. “Now the chances of being caught, or of being prosecuted if you are, are substantially less than they were 10 years ago.”
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