Progress in Philadelphia, Trouble for Home Growers

In the city of brotherly love, around a quarter of a percent of the population are busted for marijuana possession each year. This amounts to around 4,000 out of the 1.5 million Philadelphia residents. James F. Kenney, a City Council member, is quick to point out that there is a murky undercurrent to this innocuous statistic. According to Kenney, around 83 percent of individuals busted for pot possession in the city are black or Latino. Kenney says, “There are no arrests at Phish concerts or fraternity parties.”

Mayor Michael Nutter was quick to defend his city’s police force in August of 2014, stating that it was a “bogus issue.” Mr. Nutter, himself African American, appeared disturbed by the notion that police officers do not apply the law uniformly. However, council member Kenney has been working diligently to bring the mayor around, speaking often on the issue. Says Kenney, “It follows you. If you’re black and trying to find a job in this economy, it’s very difficult. With a criminal arrest, it’s impossible.”

Kenney’s persistence has been paying off. The two men have been working on a new piece of legislation that could render the possession of small amounts of pot a civil offense, instead of a criminal one. The legislation will see individuals stopped with less than 30 grams of marijuana hit with a $25 fine. Individuals using marijuana in public will be fined $100. If approved, the law will go into effect on Oct 20th, 2015.

Even as Philadelphia considers softening marijuana laws, police in the city are teaming up with PECO Energy and PP&L to learn how to identify marijuana home-growers based on their energy consumption.

smokingpagoda-the-thinker-in-philadelphiaPolice, who typically identify home-growers using FLIR thermal imaging equipment, are quick to point out that FLIR can be highly inefficient. Driving through neighborhoods looking for hot spots in homes burns through a lot of fuel, and buzzing neighborhoods with helicopters generates a lot of noise pollution.

What’s more, home-growers are becoming better at managing the heat generated by their grow operations. For instance, many growers now pipe excess heat into the ground instead of allowing it to dissipate through a window. Additionally, some growers are switching to LED lights, which produce little heat. Interestingly, critics of this practice claim that plants grown under LED lights produce inferior buds.

At the end of the day, though, growers can’t get around the fact that producing several large plants indoors requires a great deal of energy. PECO Energy has warned police that home-growers use many times more energy than their neighbors do, and that criminal operations often tap into their neighbor’s energy supply to avoid a hefty power bill.

The energy company believes it possible to create algorithms that would determine probable home grow sites by energy consumption levels alone. This innovation will allow police to use FLIR technology more efficiently.

A citywide crackdown on home-growers may be on the horizon, but commercial growers will receive the most scrutiny as they consume the most energy. If you are growing two or three plants, you can lower your energy footprint by using LED lights.