Raids on 40 houses in 12 suburban Georgia counties in the past two weeks are a sign of a national trend in marijuana marketing: growing the illicit crop year-round indoors, using suburban homes as “grow-houses,” the Christian Science Monitor reports. Grow-houses have proliferated as antidrug squads have chased growers off remote mountainsides and out of cornfields. In these basements, says the Monitor, “lights hum with thousands of watts across a sea of plants lodged in a hydroponic soup of nutrients. Upstairs, there’s usually no furniture, police say, except a cot, a chair, and a rabbit-ear TV.” Says Fayette County Lt. Jody Thomas: “It’s the most impressive thing I’ve seen in 20 years of law enforcement.”
The suburbs give growers a degree of safety, protected by a premium on privacy and a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prevents law officers from aiming heat-sensing equipment at homes unless they first obtain search warrants. The trend signals that “production is moving closer to consumption” – a path that leads straight to the suburbs, says Jon Gettman the Bulletin of Cannabis Reform in Lovettsville, Va., which promotes legalizing marijuana for medicinal use. In the early 1980s, 80 percent of marijuana in the U.S. was imported, mostly from Mexico, says the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which works to stop arrests of marijuana smokers. Now, 40 percent of the supply is grown domestically – about half of it indoors.