A new tool in the drug war: marijuana scratch-and-sniff cards

Cards replicate ‘sickly sweet’ grow-op smell


The smell of cultivated marijuana is spreading across England this week, courtesy of Crimestoppers U.K.

The crime-fighting charity is mass mailing scratch-and-sniff cards which replicate the smell of growing cannabis plants to help homeowners identify possible marijuana grow ops in their neighbourhoods. Police will also hand out the cards.

A total of 210,000 scratch-and-sniff cards will be distributed this week in areas of England which Crimestoppers says police have identified as “hot spots” of marijuana cultivation. The cards are more than a publicity gimmick. Crimestoppers U.K. says it hopes citizens will scratch, sniff and possibly call Crimestoppers  to pass along an anonymous tip.

Here’s what the cards look like:

While announcing the campaign Tuesday, Crimestoppers U.K. said British police are seeing “a significant move” of marijuana farms to urban residences from rural, industrial and commercial sites. “Not many people know how to recognize the signs of cannabis cultivation, which is increasingly happening in their neighbourhood,” Crimestoppers U.K. operations director Roger Critchell said in a press release.

As well as producing a whiff of a marijuana plant, the green-and-black cards list eight tell-tale signs a grow op may be in business down the block. This includes No. 1. “Strong and sickly sweet smell” to No. 8. “Lots of cables.”

(Sign No. 2 is a bit suspect, however — “Cannabis growing equipment.” If one is familiar enough with cannabis growing equipment to recognize it, then it’s doubtful one is going to call Crimestoppers to report the sighting.)

And no, Aunt Mabel is not going to get high by sniffing the scratch card when it comes in the post. “It’s a replica chemical fragrance,” said Crimestoppers spokesperson Giselle Lares. “There is no actual trace of THC, the active ingredient in real cannabis.”

The smell replicates live mature marijuana plants, not the smell of a burning joint.

Crimestoppers is first targeting the mass mailing to areas where police have busted the most cultivation houses recently — South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and London. Thirteen regions in all will receive the cards by the end of the week, Lares said. Currently, England is the only part of Britain to get the cards.

Beyond busting local criminals, Crimestoppers says there is a strong connection between organized crime and marijuana grow houses, saying that a grow-op in a residential neighbourhood can lead to increased in crime and violence. A secondary concern is that grow ops illegally tap into the power grid to supply the large amounts of heat and light required for a commercial marijuana farm.

Crimestoppers U.K. picked up the idea of the scratch-and-sniff cannabis cards from its sister organization in marijuana-friendly Holland, where a similar campaign to make the public aware of the dangers of grow ops “had good results” three years ago, Lares said.

Although marijuana is technically illegal in the Netherlands, laws against smoking, buying and selling cannabis have not been enforced there since 1976, and licensed coffee shops are allowed to sell the drug in small amounts.

But police in the Netherlands still crack down on illegal growing operations, in part because the environmentally conscientious Dutch frown on the large amounts of energy involved in commercial marijuana cultivation. Because heavy electrical use is viewed suspiciously by authorities, pot farmers  in the Netherlands often tap into the power grid illegally to get unmetered electricity.

As a result, the Dutch scratch-and-sniff campaign was funded by one of the country’s major power companies, Stedin Netbeheer BV, which estimated it was losing $15 million a year to grow-op energy thieves.

The British scratch-and-sniff campaign is funded by “various police forces and some of our regular partners,” Lares said. Power providers are not involved.

No word yet from Canada’s various Crimestoppers organizations on whether the scratch-and-sniff idea will make it to this side of the Atlantic.


A new tool in the drug war: marijuana scratch-and-sniff cards

  1. “CrimeStoppers” is a UK registered charity which works with the police via the public to report crime. They have just released a statement in pdf format concerning cannabis grow-ops. In this document they say “We do not enforce the law.” THIS IS TOTALLY UNTRUE. In the same pdf document they say that “We pay cash rewards of up to £1,000 if the information you give to Crimestoppers leads to one or more people being arrested and charged.” If this element of reward is not a conduit to enforcing the law THEN WHAT IS? HOW HYPOCRITICAL IS THAT? http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org/assets/files/cannabiscultivationstatement.pdf

  2. a) What exactly constitutes “unsociable hours” anyways? If you work nights your friends from work might come over at 3 am. Not everyone works and lives 9 to 5 nor should they have to.

    b) “Constantly covered or blocked off windows”. What a load of nonsense. I heard of a family in the GTA that recently had their door kicked in and loaded guns pointed at their children’s heads all because they had put clear plastic on their windows to conserve heat in the winter. The idiot cops thought they had a grow house got all worked up and gung ho and raided it after doing very little surveillance. The family got a lawyer and the police quickly paid them off to sweep it under the table. Happens all the time thanks to fear and suspicion mongering public service announcements like these.

  3. This just another campaign of the refusal of the truth the complacency and fear within and on the public will within a totalitarian state , the campaign for legalization is about liberty and freedom this plant is harmless its effects are pleasant . The war amounts to bunch of pigs who should scratch and sniff there own behinds This is just like the british making again a war US and Them , Its sicking … please ALL of you joins us join the movement attack the employer in drug testing de- fund the police its time to rise each day you see the sun rise think of it as rising marijuana leaf . marijuana will give you more freedom then the government suppression and lies brake off stop paying your taxes and learn the truth

  4. In my town a couple of years ago an RCMP officer reckoned he smelled marijuana from a back yard. A massive midnight raid was organized and an elderly couple were put in handcuffs while the SWAT team discovered… a tomato garden. Maybe our cops need some of these cards. Or maybe they need to start responding to actual crimes instead of driving around sniffing the air.

  5. This could be a lottery in Colorado and Washington.
    Weed helps me not drink. Though I might quit to avoid diabetes. The alcoholic Prairies have the highest crime rates. Mtl, Vancouver, the two biggest cdn grow-up nucleuses, don’t have the highest something or other.

    • You are right about MTL having low crime but Vancouver and the lower mainland are full of grow ops and have some of the highest crime rates in Canada.

  6. Yet another ingenious method dreamed up by organized crime to rid themselves of their smaller competitors…

  7. Legalize it already.

    I’m tired of this. We lost.

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