Cannabis farms is the term used to refer to commercial or residential premises which are used to grow cannabis. They range in size from just part of a room, a whole house, or a commercial property such as a warehouse. Premises used as cannabis farms will have been adapted to the extent that the normal usage of the premises or part of the premises will not be possible.
Cannabis is not only a controlled Class B drug, but its cultivation proposes a variety of criminal concerns, alongside significant fire and safety risks.
We want to be very clear that we do not welcome cannabis cultivation within Staffordshire. Often, grows are linked with more complex and serious crimes, involving organised gangs intent on exploiting vulnerable people under modern slavery offences. Organised crime groups can exploit people in a variety of ways, such as the act of cuckooing, where gangs will take-over a vulnerable person’s property to use it as a base of operations.
Both the public and our partners play an important role in providing intelligence around cannabis cultivation and we continue to appeal for information from landlords, letting agents and the wider public to report any suspicious activity.
Cannabis cultivation clues
There are certain clues that your neighbour could be growing cannabis.
These are the signs to look out for:
There’s a pungent smell You may be able to smell the drug’s familiar odour
High levels of condensation on the windows, even in the warmer months The condensation may well be due to the inside having been turned into a makeshift greenhouse.
Constantly covered or blacked-out windows It might make it look like the house is unoccupied, but blacked out windows could well mean inside is really bright and contains lighting equipment.
A high number of deliveries or large items being taken in or out Thousands of pounds worth of equipment is often needed for large-scale grows.
A constant buzz of ventilation If you can hear the constant noise of a fan, at all times of the day or night, chances are it could be acting as ventilation for the cannabis grow.
Strong, constant lighting day and night Cannabis needs light to grow, so watch out for homes with bright lighting at all times of the day and night. Lights will often be on a timer switch, coming on in the middle of the night.
Lots of power cables The lights, dehumidifiers and heaters take a lot of electricity. Growers will often hack into the electricity wires before the meter to that individual house, and so bypass having to pay for the electricity.
Lack of snow on the roof Cannabis factories produce a lot of heat, which can cause tell-tales signs, especially in winter. When it snows, the roofs of cannabis farms can be obvious as the snow melts, meaning it is probably the only house on the street without a snow-covered roof.
Unsociable comings and goings Lots of unfamiliar faces turning up at the house at any time of the day and night could signal that cannabis is being grown at the property
Advice for landlords
Although landlords are not legally responsible for the behaviour of their tenants, you do have a duty of care to make sure that your tenants don't cause problems in the wider community.
We recommend you follow these tips to weed out tenants who may be involved in this kind of activity:
Always carry out in-depth tenant checks
Be wary of tenants who take particular interest in the electricity supply
Be wary of tenants who want to move in very quickly
Carry out regular inspections of the property
Communicate with the neighbours regularly
Take mobile numbers for all tenants
Get paid via the tenant’s bank account - don’t accept cash for the rent, deposit or administration fees
Don’t offer short-term lets
Don’t allow the property to become ‘invisible’: keep the greenery trimmed back and make sure the house number is clearly visible from the road
When you are doing your inspections look out for these signs that your property may be being used as a cannabis farm:
An unusual amount of activity when the tenants first move in
Paranoid behaviour by your tenants
Silver duct tape hanging out of windows
Blacked out windows or curtains closed all of the time
Low-level hanging equipment
Humidity: condensation on windows, peeling wallpaper, mildewed walls
A pungent smell
Excessive use of deodorisers and air freshener
Sudden fluctuations in electricity bills
Electrical wiring tampered with
Powerful lights on day and night
How to report concerns
If you're suspicious of a cannabis farm report online, by calling 101 or by messaging us on Facebook and Twitter. Always dial 999 in an emergency. Alternatively, you can provide information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.