California is in the midst of a major boom in large-scale marijuana cultivation operations run from inside homes, says the Los Angeles Times. Authorities have confiscated more than $100 million worth of pot in the last year alone. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says the number of indoor marijuana plants seized by federal, state and local authorities in California has quadrupled in last three years, from at least 54,000 plants to nearly 200,000 in 2006.
Many seizures have occurred in middle-class and upscale suburbs, where pot growers took advantage of cheap home financing and minimal credit checks to purchase homes and remodel them into sophisticated farms. Using equipment that can cost $75,000, homes were transformed into illicit greenhouses with blacked-out windows, sophisticated irrigation, high-powered and timed lighting and ventilation devices to hide the smell of the plants. DEA estimates that there are 21,000 residential marijuana operations, primarily on the west coasts of Canada and the U.S., with cases in Florida, Georgia, and parts of the East Coast.