The hidden cost of cannabis

May 01, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Around £200m of electricity is being stolen every year to run illegal cannabis farms across the UK. Phil Butler, Co-Director of Newcastle University’s Centre for Cybercrime and Computer Security (CCCS), says this would be enough electricity to provide free energy for every household in Newcastle for a whole year.

Now the Newcastle team are joining forces with key organisations to investigate ways in which cyber technology could be used to crackdown on the commercial cultivation of this class B drug.

“The cultivation of is happening on an industrial scale but at the moment the police are still very much reliant on intelligence and tip-offs,” explains Mr Butler, a former Detective Inspector with Northumbria Police.

“What we are trying to do is develop technologies that will enable us to take a more proactive approach in the fight against cannabis cultivation.”

Around 4,000 cannabis farms are discovered in the UK each year. Cannabis is the most widely used of all the illicit drugs in the UK, with just under 10 million adults (16 – 59 year olds) having used the drug.

The idea of growing cannabis indoors first emerged in the USA as a means of avoiding detection – naturally grown cannabis plants can reach several feet in height. Growing cannabis indoors without soil under powerful lights produces strains that have a higher concentration of THC, the active chemical in cannabis.

“The costs associated with even a small-scale farm are astronomical,” explains Mr Butler. “To get around this, the individuals responsible find ways of siphoning off the electricity from the main source – often this literally means digging down underground outside the premises and hooking into the main supply.”

One of the solutions is a Smart metre which feeds back information in real time to the main grid. Remotely monitoring input and output, Mr Butler said it could detect ‘spikes’ on the grid where unexpectedly high levels of electricity were being withdrawn.

“Our work suggests the annual cost to the taxpayer in stolen electricity is around £200m which is staggering,” says Mr Butler.

“But it’s about more than money. These farms are essentially death traps. In one small space such as a loft or a garage you have all this electricity and gallons of water which is a lethal combination.”

To launch the new initiative, a two-day conference is being held in Newcastle which will bring together individuals and organisations who have a key role to play in combating the problem of cannabis cultivation including the Home Office, ACPO, regional fire and police services and energy companies.

Explore further: Marcellus drilling boom may have led to too many hotel rooms

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cannabis link to other drugs

Jul 19, 2011

Quitting cannabis use in your 20s significantly reduces the chance of progressing to other illicit drugs, according to research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Cannabis harms the brain - but that's not the full story

Dec 12, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- For the first time, scientists have proven that cannabis harms the brain. But the same study challenges previously-held assumptions about use of the drug, showing that some brain irregularities predate ...

Synthetic cannabis linked to extended psychosis

May 18, 2011

Case studies indicate the recreational use of synthetic cannabis may lead to psychosis that can last for days or months in some cases, according to a study at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting in Hawaii.

Prohibition of cannabis counter-productive

Oct 08, 2010

Prohibition of cannabis in the United States may be counter-productive, with a new study showing that a period of increased law enforcement against the drug coincided with an increase in the number of young adult cannabis ...

Recommended for you

Marcellus drilling boom may have led to too many hotel rooms

22 hours ago

Drilling in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale region led to a rapid increase in both the number of hotels and hotel industry jobs, but Penn State researchers report that the faltering occupancy rate may signal that there are ...

Entrepreneurs aren't overconfident gamblers

Sep 17, 2014

Leaving one's job to become an entrepreneur is inarguably risky. But it may not be the fear of risk that makes entrepreneurs more determined to succeed. A new study finds entrepreneurs are also concerned about what they might ...

User comments : 19

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

LariAnn
4.3 / 5 (18) May 01, 2012
This "problem" could be eliminated immediately by decriminalizing the cultivation of cannabis. Then growers wouldn't need to hide their crops indoors under lights and could grow out in the open, saving all that electricity and the law enforcement expenses as well.
kochevnik
3.7 / 5 (12) May 01, 2012
How are the £200m of electricity being stolen, exactly? Oh yeah, it's the bloody nitwit UK bureaucracy at it again. Those guys won't stop until the English language is thoroughly digested into effluent.

"...one small space such as a loft or a garage you have all this electricity and gallons of water which is a lethal combination."
it's also on private property. What business is it of Mr. Butler? It seems he never heard of that device called a fuse. Unbeknownst to him swimming pools also have electricity and water. Why doesn't the crusader ban all those first?
kaasinees
3 / 5 (13) May 01, 2012
The real reason they outlawed growth of cannabis is because it can be used to produces clothes, paper and many more products, even car parts.
JMDragonWake
4.8 / 5 (8) May 01, 2012
kochevnik:
How are the £200m of electricity being stolen, exactly?

The article says:
"...the individuals responsible find ways of siphoning off the electricity from the main source - often this literally means digging down underground outside the premises and hooking into the main supply."

I'm all for legalization too, but at least read the whole article before you start swinging that dictionary around.
kaasinees
1.5 / 5 (8) May 01, 2012
store.hempest.com/catalog/
A2G
3.8 / 5 (8) May 01, 2012
The UK spends absurd amounts on trying to stop cannabis which is very effective for treatment of many ailments very safely. Then though the NHS the same government spends billions providing Big Pharma drugs to treat the same ailments, but with all kinds of side effects. Follow the money trail and you will see why cannabis is still not legal in the UK despite all the studies showing how safe and effective it truly is.
bluehigh
1.4 / 5 (9) May 02, 2012
Its a mind altering poison that impacts not just the user but friends and family too. Check out most pot heads homes in a state of filth and disrepair or the kids exposed as they miss school and stumble about dazed in filthy rags. Why do anything man, its cool. Work nah. sugar yeah.

used to produces clothes, paper and many more products, even car parts

Cotton too. Go smoke some cotton and we'll be rid of you.

As for the dictionary ...
Smart metre
- from the article
Not even in countries using the metric system. A metER is a measuring instrument, everywhere.

kochevnik
3.7 / 5 (3) May 02, 2012
Its a mind altering poison that impacts not just the user but friends and family too.
You mean England in general?
COCO
1.7 / 5 (6) May 02, 2012
how about the cost to humanity for the use of such a narcotic? - this money is the thin edge of the wedge - why not bracket some real money and track down and gaol those who use this entry level drug - show them the value of freedom - let us pray that Obama can lead the way to a drug free world as he has done with terror.
chromosome2
5 / 5 (2) May 06, 2012
http://en.wikiped..._country
The correlation is very clear: If you want to decrease marijuana usage rates, you legalize it. Marijuana prohibition is every bit as much of a social, financial, and moral failure as abstinence-only sex education. The difference between pot and alcohol is that the civil-war-scale organized crime problem is in Mexico instead of Chicago and no one in the US gives a **** about the lives of Mexicans. The generations of the future will spit on our graves-- and they have my blessing in doing so.

On the topic of the social cost of pot, consider that while alcohol breeds a feeling of false confidence, pot tends to make people feel paranoid-- and I don't remember the last time I heard of someone beating their wife in a cannabis-fueled rage. Add onto that the fact that cannabidiol is a tumor suppressor that's being omitted from cancer therapies because of irrational fear regarding its use.. It's all ridiculous.
chromosome2
5 / 5 (1) May 06, 2012
I think what people really mean when they talk about the social cost of pot is the fact that psychoactive drugs detract credence from the "intangible soul" hypothesis of human consciousness and lend it to modern neurobiology, which is caustic to adherence rates of fundamentalist sects. I personally consider this a profound benefit, although I think widespread critical thinking skills are a far more efficient and cost effective means to this end.
Sinister1811
2.3 / 5 (3) May 06, 2012
I wonder what's the worst that could happen if they legalized marijuana. Besides, I don't think anyone has actually died from smoking it (except for maybe if they were driving, or operating machinery). There are far more dangerous drugs out there that are legal. Alcohol can be deadly, so can tobacco. Both of those are legal. If they decriminalized marijuana, less people would think it's "cool" to smoke it, there would be less of a trend, and it would lose its black market value.
fully attached
not rated yet May 06, 2012
This "problem" could be eliminated immediately by decriminalizing the cultivation of cannabis. Then growers wouldn't need to hide their crops indoors under lights and could grow out in the open, saving all that electricity and the law enforcement expenses as well.


"The idea of growing cannabis indoors first emerged in the USA as a means of avoiding detection naturally grown cannabis plants can reach several feet in height. Growing cannabis indoors without soil under powerful lights produces strains that have a higher concentration of THC, the active chemical in cannabis."
COCO
1 / 5 (2) May 07, 2012
I think the concensus from the comments is that legalization is insane and would lead to the destruction of modern society - what we really need is serious money bracketed for dealing with users - more money to police and military would be an investment. A few decades in gaol for users would teach them the value of freedom and choice - we have to become more strict. This is not a benign drug like nicotine and alchohol - pot KILLS!!
fully attached
5 / 5 (1) May 07, 2012
I think the concensus from the comments is that legalization is insane and would lead to the destruction of modern society - what we really need is serious money bracketed for dealing with users - more money to police and military would be an investment. A few decades in gaol for users would teach them the value of freedom and choice - we have to become more strict. This is not a benign drug like nicotine and alchohol - pot KILLS!!


modern society? what is your definition of modern society? police and military? whos police and military? whos we? and this is for the last two sentences... are you a reversible shill?
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) May 07, 2012
I think the concensus from the comments is that legalization is insane

It's saner than legalization of alcohol (at least people don't become aggressive on cannabis).

Then growers wouldn't need to hide their crops indoors under lights and could grow out in the open, saving all that electricity and the law enforcement expenses as well.

AND it could be taxed.

The real reason they outlawed growth of cannabis is because it can be used to produces clothes, paper and many more products, even car parts.
No real reason to outlaw it. There are THC free hemp variants which are grown legally and used for these products.
COCO
1 / 5 (1) May 07, 2012
all you have to do is look at Kanada (modern society?) where weed has de facto legality - the streets remained swarmed by filthy lazy potheads and chaos and wanton crime rains supreme - there is no going back - certainly there are containable problems with alcohol and tobacco but nothing like the wholesale destruction associated with cannabis - read the literature gentlemen. Remember Reagan's assessment as well. A slippery slope.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (1) May 07, 2012
all you have to do is look at Kanada (modern society?)
And no rants from willfully retarded Americans. Everyone on Earth knows America is a warehouse for stupid people. Mossad blows up your buildings and you think some cave-dwelling goat-herder did it, because Murdoch says that's the only proper answer.
COCO
1 / 5 (1) May 07, 2012
Seffen at Cambridge pretty well sewed up that argument comrade K - 911 has been explained to the nth degree. Let us pray that our warrior commanders in chief continue their was on terror - trusting it can be even half as successful as thier war on drugs. You need to be gaoled even if for a few years to teach you the value of freedom!