30.08.2012 | no replies
'Guerilla' cannabis growers farm 6ft-tall crop hidden deep in woodland leaving police fearing new tactic in drug production
Experts believe they were grown by 'guerilla' farmers hoping to exploiting the warmer summer weather in Britain to grow the drugs in the outdoors.
Last March a new police crackdown on dope factories was ordered after figures showed the number of cannabis factories found inside properties across the UK had increased from 3,032 to 6,866 over the past four years.
Many are said to be run by criminal gangs - usually from Vietnam. Cannabis has been grown outdoors before in the UK but usually just one or two plants in private gardens.
Today, Cheshire Police confirmed the find at woodland in Oakhanger near Crewe on Friday afternoon - and revealed it was the first outdoor cannabis farm its officers had found.
The plants would have yielded a total of 250g of cannabis giving it a street value of up to £3,000.
PC Andy Kent said he and PC Warren Davison had received information from a member of the public that cannabis was being cultivated in the public woods.
PC Kent said: 'After fighting through bracken up to 6ft high and searching the woodland we found 10 cannabis plants that had been purposefully planted and were quite obviously being tendered to by someone.
'They are well off the beaten track and had grown quite successfully. Someone has spent a considerable amount of their time in these woods and may have been spotted attending regularly to the site.'
PC Kent added: 'Cannabis is a Class B drug and any person found cultivating it can face up to 14 years imprisonment at Crown Court.
'We are committed to tackling the increase in domestic cannabis growers and also larger scale operations. I would urge anyone with information about the person responsible for this cannabis crop to contact us.'
The find came as Cheshire Police revealed a Vietnamese crime boss who rang a series of drugs factories across the Crewe area was found to have made £1.3million from cannabis farming.
Don Han Le, 42, who ran a Chinese restaurant, had been using illegal Vietnamese immigrants, known as 'gardeners', to harvest the cannabis at up to 18 properties.
More than 4,000 cannabis plants were recovered, with a street value of almost £700,000.
Le was convicted of conspiracy to produce class B controlled drugs and acquiring, using and possessing criminal property and was also jailed for seven years at Chester Crown Court. He must repay £137,000 or face another two years in jail.
Cannabis plants can be planted outdoors in natural soil but due it needing hot weather typical growing regions include Mexico, Nepal, Northern India, many parts of Africa, Afghanistan, California and Australia.
In most places of the subtropics, cannabis is grown from late spring to early summer and harvested from late summer to early autumn.
Growers fearful of being 'ripped off' usually cultivate outdoor cannabis farms in remote areas such as forest clearings or mountain cliffs - and might even attach pots to trees.
But they choose areas that receive 12 hours or more of sunlight a day. In the U.S, cannabis farms are hidden by maize and camouflaged with bamboo and elderberry.
Guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers says that cannabis 'farms' are usually located in private dwellings.
While some are of little commercial value the largest ever discovered, in Cambridgeshire in 2010, led to the seizure of 7,600 plants with a value of £2.5million.
The number of plants is not relevant. A property will be treated as a 'farm' if it possesses either high intensity lighting, ventilation, a hydroponics system or is bypassing an electrical meter.
Commercial cannabis production has been associated with trafficking of adults and their children from China and Vietnam.
The police and UK Border Agency made 212,784 drug seizures in England and Wales in 2010/11.
Cannabis use has increased to 6.8 per cent of all 16-59-year-olds since penalties for its possession were raised in 2009, although is still lower than the 9.5 per cent of 1996.
Liberal MEP Chris Davies, who is campaigning for a change of Britain's drug laws, said: 'We have all become familiar with stories of cannabis being grown under artificial lighting in houses and commercial buildings but this is the first time I have heard of it being planted like this in the wild.
'It may be the beginning of a trend. After all, hemp has been grown for centuries in Britain and used to make clothes, ropes and for a great number of different purposes.
'Maybe the cannabis dealers are starting to think about making money by becoming illicit farmers instead of illicit gardeners.'
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