By: Walter, July 13, 2017
Local law enforcement have a standard protocol to address complaints about marijuana grows. The Indy takes a look at how a bust plays out.
1) Most home-grow cases start with a complaint. Plants are pungent, especially during harvest, and there are other outward signs of an indoor grow, like installed ventilation systems or intense lights on at unusual hours. Noticing any of that, a neighbor (or multiple neighbors) phones the police.
2) Police have a huge backlog of such complaints, but when they get around to responding, they head out to the house in question for a “knock and talk” in which they approach the resident and just ask if they’ve got a grow. Often, residents are upfront, producing paperwork to show it’s medical or letting officers know it’s recreational. If the grow is over the plant limit — sometimes it’s obvious from peering through a door or window, sometimes a resident will straight-up say it and sometimes a doctors’ recommendation will specify it — the officer will inform the resident of state and local laws. They give the resident 10 days to get into compliance.
3) Nine times out of 10, the grow will be in compliance upon officers’ return. No problems here. Hooray!
(Aside) Sometimes that means the resident has moved the plants for a day, then brings them right back. Start over.
4) In rare instances, the grow will still be too large when officers return. Uh oh!
(Aside) Know your rights: Cops need a judge-signed warrant to enter and search a home.
5) Officers take down the grow first by photographing everything and snipping samples from the plants. Occasionally, the houses are dangerously altered, with exposed wiring or mold in the walls, so firefighters will accompany police. If it’s a medical grow, 12 plants are always left behind, per the state constitution.
6) Samples get sent off to a lab to test for THC content. If they’re under 0.3 percent, the plant is legally considered hemp, changing the nature of the case. There are other regulations pertaining to unregistered hemp and indoor flora operations.
7) Seized plants get transported to a secret location where Metro VNI has three storage containers. Each holds a maximum of 500 plants. The plants get bundled, tied and hung from the ceiling, clearly labeled by case. Drying can take up to 25 days, depending on the size of the grow.
8) Once dry, 5 pounds of plant is packaged and sent to an evidence locker for storage pending trial. If processed bud was also seized, cops save 5 pounds of that as well.
9) The rest gets destroyed. Metro VNI just got a new mulcher for this purpose. While mulching, officers wear full Tyvek suits, respirators and earmuffs for protection against mold or mildew. It takes a whole day to mulch about 450 plants. It smells more like sawdust than like stray kief.
10) Officers can’t just toss bags of mulched weed into the trash — an agonizing prospect, don’t we know — because landfills won’t accept them. That’s because discarded marijuana is considered a “hazardous material.” Instead, they ship bags of mulched weed to an authorized incinerator. That’s right — if you got it, burn it.
(Aside) Once a storage container is empty, officers can take down another grow. By now, it could be over two months since the initial complaint.