(MintPress) – In an effort to crack down on illegal cannabis farms in England, police in Britain are distributing “scratch-and-sniff” cards to educate the public on how to detect the aroma of marijuana. When scratched, the card emits the odor of a skunk cannabis plant during its growing state. While the cards may smell like […]
(MintPress) – In an effort to crack down on illegal cannabis farms in England, police in Britain are distributing “scratch-and-sniff” cards to educate the public on how to detect the aroma of marijuana.
When scratched, the card emits the odor of a skunk cannabis plant during its growing state. While the cards may smell like marijuana, there is no trace of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive element of the cannabis plant that gets marijuana users high.
Not only do the cards educate the public on what growing marijuana smells like, but the card also notes other tell-tale signs of a farm, including covered windows, visitors at all hours of the day and high levels of heat and condensation.
Scratch-and-sniff campaign funded by donations
The scratch-and-sniff campaign was created by the independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers, and was funded by donations from local police forces. The exact amount of public funds being used on the program has not been disclosed, and when asked by news organization the Daily Mail, a Crimestoppers spokesman declined to answer.
The cards will be mailed to about 210,000 homes in 13 areas throughout England, including London, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire, an area where nearly 1,800 cannabis farms were found between 2010 and 2012.
Roger Critchell, director of operations for Crimestoppers, said the group was “distributing ‘scratch and sniff’ cards because not many people know how to recognize the signs of cannabis cultivation happening in their neighborhood.” He added that “many are also not familiar with the established links between this crime and serious organized crime.”
As of now the United States does not have a similar scratch-and-sniff campaign in place, but marijuana is largely targeted by law enforcement.
In a recent interview with Mint Press News, Thomas Gallagher, a defense attorney in Minneapolis and legalization advocate, said that the relationship between marijuana and violence or criminal acts has been misconstrued.
He shared that he has never had an assault case involving marijuana, but alcohol is involved in 99 percent of domestic abuse cases.
“It’s a derivative argument,” he said. “What makes drugs violent is the criminal laws that create the black market and underground economy. Gangs are created to protect money.”
But like the police in the United States, law enforcement in England doesn’t unanimously view the issue like Gallagher does, and police in England are hopeful that once the public is educated on what smells they should be alert for, many community members will step forward and help police identify marijuana farms.
“Many people don’t realize that the empty, run down house or flat on their street with people coming and going late at night may actually be a commercial cannabis farm. It’s not just the stereotype of the remote rural set or disused industrial estate unit,” said Andy Bliss of the Association of Chief Police Officers.
Many in UK view campaign as a joke
But so far the public doesn’t seem impressed with the campaign, which has received a lot of backlash online, with some Brits joking about using the cards as air fresheners, and others dismissing the campaign as an early April Fools Day joke.
Pro-cannabis campaigners have dismissed the campaign as a joke and others have accused the Crimestoppers charity of wasting resources.
Still, Crimestoppers insists that the cards were needed, claiming that cannabis farms are a growing problem and are linked to violence, human trafficking and organized crime.
“Closing down cannabis farms and arresting the criminals who run and organize them is a key focus in drugs policing,” said Bliss. “This is because we recognize that these farms are often run by organized criminals but also because they bring crime and antisocial behavior into local communities causing real harm and leaving people feeling unsafe.”
The launch of the scratch-and-sniff campaign comes after the U.K. reported a 15 percent increase in the amount of cannabis factories during 2011-2012, which Crimestoppers says has led to an increase in theft, violence and the use of firearms, as well as an increased risk of fires in residential areas after growers tamper with electrical supplies.
A similar campaign was used in the Netherlands beginning in 2010. It’s legal for a Dutch citizen to grow up to five plants for personal use, even though marijuana is not legalized in the country. Police also look the other way when it comes to personal consumption, but bulk cultivation of cannabis is targeted.
Scratch-and-sniff cards were mailed to more than 30,000 homes and helped the Dutch authorities reportedly bust hundreds of cannabis farms. But overall, critics of the campaign said the cards were a waste of money and said the campaign had very little impact.
Dutch authorities reported in 2010 that they believed there were about 40,000 illegal cannabis plantations in the Netherlands, and bust about 6,000 every year.