I watch high-quality crime TV shows and movies because I grow marijuana in a state that mandates prison sentences for growers who cultivates the number of plants I grow. Crime dramas educate me about how police stalk, investigate, and bust “criminals.” I need to know this stuff, seeing as I am one, apparently.
My attorney has warned me that police who bust grow ops almost always start their investigation only after receiving anonymous or paid tips alleging the presence of a cannabis grow op. Watch out for anybody that could suspect you’re growing, and would tell police, he says.
The good news is, a tip by itself isn’t enough evidence to justify a search warrant. After police get that tip, they must find at least two solid search-warrant pillars.
What is this, I hear you ask?
A search-warrant pillar is supposed to be proven, unassailable evidence legally obtained by police without them ever having set foot on your property. This evidence must be presented in a search-warrant application to give a judge justification to sign the warrant that allows a police raid to invariably wreck your home and life.
In most jurisdictions, my attorney explained, there have to be at least two pillars for a search warrant, and they’re supposed to be exceedingly strong. A good judge carefully weighs the strength of the pillars, but many judges rubber-stamp the warrants and automatically approve them, my lawyer warned. This has led to many cases in which police lied to obtain that search warrant, or a search warrant was granted based on flimsy evidence and insufficiently skeptical judicial review.
Police Efforts To Get Evidence Against Marijuana Growers
My attorney explained to me that you’d be surprised at what lengths cops can legally go to in order to get evidence against marijuana growers.
According to precedents set by the US Supreme Court and Court of Appeals in accord with the so-called war on drugs, the drug war is a real war, so regular constitutional civil rights protections don’t always apply to marijuana growers.
For example, police can stand on the perimeter of your property after illegally entering your neighbor’s property to photograph, videotape, heatscope and otherwise inspect your house.
They can use stepladders to peer over high fences or hedges. They can fly drones over your property. They can sniff for the odor of marijuana, and use dogs to further sniff out certain scents. They can look for windows with reflective materials on them, for large air-conditioning units or more units than would be normal for that size dwelling, for bags of soil or boxes that can be identified as packaging for hydroponics gear and supplies.
Of course, the pot of gold at the end of the search-warrant rainbow is if police spy on you and smell weed growing, or especially if they see cannabis plants.
If police officers see cannabis plants growing on or in your property, they can immediately enter without a search warrant because they see evidence of a “crime in progress.” In that case, they can kick your door down whether you’re home or not, with or without a warrant.
Police have the legal right to search your garbage cans when you’ve put them at the curb. Many a grower has been busted via search warrants granted after cops showed judges discarded cannabis clippings, paraphernalia, seeds packages, white poly plastic or Mylar, marijuana magazines, discarded grow gear and supplies, discarded grow-gear packaging, and other so-called incriminating evidence from growers’ garbage cans.
Some large-scale cannabis growers have had extensive, expensive surveillance operations run on them that rival what you see in crime movies and TV shows.
Law enforcement has entered marijuana grower homes while they were away and placed audio, visual and computer surveillance devices in their living space and home tech.
They set up roving and static surveillance using live personnel and 24/7 coverage.
They use forward-looking infrared radar, either handheld or attached to aircraft (especially helicopters and drones) to read heat signatures inside your home, so they can claim that super-hot grow lights are showing up to indicate a typical grow-house heat distribution profile.
Police and domestic surveillance agencies can legally tap into your internet server and cellphone or tablet to collect metadata or even to listen in on conversations and read text messages in real time.
Police can secretly subpoena your electricity consumption records and those of your neighbors, to see if they can establish that you use more electricity than they think is normal, and/or to see spikes in electricity usage that correspond with the 18 hours and 12 hours of lights-on for your grow.
When police seek search-warrant pillars, they can often get them without you ever knowing they’re watching you. Don’t be shocked to learn sometimes police blatantly break the law to obtain search-warrant data. They trespass to enter your house or car illegally. Just because they’re police officers, it doesn’t mean they follow the law. In many cases, the opposite is true. Pretty pathetic, right?
[Please Note: I’m not an attorney. I’m just telling you what my very competent attorney explained to me. Always consult your own legal representation to get the most relevant advice in your jurisdiction and situation.]
Becoming A Marijuana Grower Samurai
I don’t ever want to be in a cage with a bunch of other caged men.
My extreme fear of getting busted for growing cannabis and being sent to prison was recently heightened when a reclusive old dude who lived next door to me died suddenly at age 89, and a 60-something woman bought his house and moved in.
The old guy had never come outside except to get in a taxi to go to doctor’s appointments or go to the grocery store, and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have known or cared that I grow cannabis.
But the woman who bought the house is a retired busybody. She’s always puttering around outdoors, or she’s sitting at her front window, peering out.
What really concerns me is I’ve caught her looking over the fence at me in my backyard. She even spoke to me over the fence on a couple of occasions; it seemed intrusive, and prying.
To be blunt, she’s a bad neighbor. She smokes cigarettes and flicks the butts over the fence into my yard. She burns piles of leaves when the wind is blowing from her direction toward my home; the smoke fills my house. She puts her garbage cans and downed tree limbs on my property. She blasts her TV and country music super loud late at night and keeps me awake.
One day she walked up and started blabbing at me when I couldn’t easily get away from her, because I was only half-finished washing and waxing my car. I’ve never seen her drive a car. She rides a bicycle. She told me she’d been convicted of “DUI, leaving the scene of an accident with injuries,” so as a result she lost her driver’s license. For life.
She said she’d kicked what she was “addicted to, booze and opiates,” was now a “born-again Christian” who hates drugs and drug users. She claims her son is addicted to marijuana and heroin, so she hates marijuana because it “leads to heroin.”
Her talk of hating cannabis put me on edge. Then she said something that put me even more on edge. She asked if I’d smelled a skunk in the neighborhood and said she was thinking of calling animal control because “skunks are very dangerous.”
I knew for sure it wasn’t skunks. Too many of the strains I love to grow are skunky smelling. I immediately looked at this woman, who lived within 35 feet of me, as a serious potential threat.
It made me realize yet again the sacrifices growers make, the risks we take, to produce connoisseur cannabis.
I hastily finished waxing the car, already longing for the good ol’ days before this lady moved in, when my neighbors were not the kind to worry about.
Then this happened: I came home from running errands and one of my other neighbors said two police cars had been at the lady’s house while I was out.
I tried hard not to think about what that could mean, but one thought was that this woman had called the police to report me.
I couldn’t sleep for a couple of nights. I read my samurai books, and watched the movie Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.
I talked to a long-time grow mentor, a grower who’d been at it 17 years longer than I had. He told me to cut my plants down. I grow for medical use. I need my cannabis. Shutting down my garden is not an option for me.
I was three weeks into a new season, with plants I’d germinated from rare marijuana seeds. They were about 2 feet tall and I’d been intending to grow them for another week before I went to bloom-phase lighting. But now that I felt threatened, I wanted to finish my season as soon as possible, so I immediately switched to 12–12 lighting.
I already had a policy of tearing up, shredding and otherwise camouflaging anything I threw away that had anything to do with growing, and I never threw away even a shred of cannabis in my garbage (it goes down the garbage disposal).
Anything incriminating, such as a box my grow lights came in that clearly indicated professional hydroponics equipment, I bagged up and threw in a dumpster off-site, making sure it was a stinky dumpster where I moved existing garbage and then piled it back on top of my discards.
Knowing that police like to search inside your garbage cans when they’ve been put out at the curb, I monitored my cans by placing tiny strips of clear plastic tape along the opening edges on the evening I put them out. I’d go out early in the morning just before the garbage truck came by, to see if the tape had been ripped, which would indicate the garbage can had been opened.
Marijuana Grower Samurai Patrol & Detection Protocols
I put myself on a patrol schedule. I stayed home more. Once per day, after I made sure nobody would see me, I climbed up onto the roof to look out on my perimeter and see if there were signs of strangers lingering.
I increased my carbon scrubber capacity. And to get fresh air in the house, I woke up at 2–3 a.m. and turned on the grow-room exhaust fan and opened a couple of windows in other parts of the house — but only after going out to make sure nobody was awake to smell the cannabis odor.
I set up fun decoy and counter-surveillance techniques by driving my car a few blocks away, parking it, then doubling back to my house and coming in over the back fence so people would think I wasn’t home. I figured if police were going to do surveillance from adjoining properties, or try to illegally access my house, they’d do it when my car wasn’t parked in my driveway and it looked like I was away.
As you could imagine, my marijuana growing seasons aren’t as fun as they used to be. I feel like a sentry guarding a military base. The constant pressure of potential police interest or even a raid wears me down.
I resigned myself to having to grow more cannabis in less time. Instead of growing year-round, I only grew one or two cycles.
I love the scent of peak bloom terpenoids, but now I have to grow low-odor strains. I have to watch my security protocols and be alert all the time.
I learned to be a samurai because as a pot grower I need a code of conduct, ethics, something to rely on, a hope of self-defense against the war on cannabis.
It’s my method of dealing with reality, knowing what outcome I desire, and making that outcome happen. I won’t accept defeat. I won’t stop growing cannabis.
The evasive tactics and utmost vigilance are what I hope will save me. God knows I’m desperate to not get arrested, not go to prison. It’s a game of cat and mouse. If a raid comes and the badge gang kicks my door down, I’ll have nobody to blame but myself. My life will be ruined. I’m not tough enough to survive behind bars.
But I banish those thoughts. I envision my future as a safe, happy person, because I implemented marijuana grower samurai precautions, preventing any raid from ever happening.
Many years from now, I’ll savor the sweet smell of stealth and success, because I grew many, many seasons of connoisseur cannabis — and nobody ever knew but me.