Published on November 8, 2010 at 8:29 PM
By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
In a novel method to uncover illegal urban cannabis plantations nearly 30,000 Dutch households are to receive marijuana-scented scratch cards. According to authorities in Rotterdam and The Hague they are distributing the cards to help people recognize what cannabis smells like.
There is a number to call to report suspected marijuana-growing on the card. The green scratch card, measuring 20cm by 10cm (8in by 4in) reads “Assist in combating cannabis plantations”. When scratched the card reveals its scent. It also speaks of other indicators of urban cannabis cultivation, such as the buzzing sound of ventilators, suspicious connections to electricity supply points and curtains that are kept closed.
According to legislation citizens can grow up to five marijuana plants for personal use. A spokesman for government-appointed working group to combat cannabis cultivation in the Netherlands, Arnie Loos said, “Citizens must be alerted to the dangers they face as a result of these plantations, and if they become aware of any suspect situations they must report them.” “One plant yields 50 grammes of cannabis five times per year. One kilogramme sells for 3,500 Euros. This plantation could earn more than 100,000 euros per year,” he explained. He added, “If people do in fact call the number on listed on the card, we could make this a national operation.”
Some of the hazards of these plantations include fires or accidents because of the cables and lamps needed to maintain a cultivation temperature of 27 degrees Celsius. They believe there are 40,000 illegal cannabis plantations in the Netherlands hidden away in attics, apartments and warehouses. Each year, around 200 plantations are discovered in Rotterdam. About 6,000 plantations are uncovered every year.