|The Royal Canadian Mounted Police used satellites to gather intelligence about this marijuana grow operation hidden deep in the heart of Mount Seymour, on Vancouver’s North Shore. Dutch police say they’ll begin using satellite images to find cannabis crops early next year.
With the coming to power of a right-wing government, the Netherlands is less and less cool about cannabis. Dutch police and local governments in the southern Netherlands plan to work with the European Space Agency to find illegal marijuana plots hidden in fields of corn and asparagus by using satellite data.
The experiment will begin early in 2012, using images taken from orbit to identity cannabis plants, according to Max Timp, a spokesman for the municipality of Venlo, which is leading the misguided project, reports Rudy Ruitenberg at Bloomberg
While growing marijuana is illegal in the Netherlands, authorities “tolerate” up to five cannabis plants for personal use. The country’s southernmost province, Limburg, has set up a program called “Green Gold” to stamp out the illegal rural growing of marijuana, this year removing 4,140 plants with a claimed street value of three million euros ($4 million).
“In the spring of 2012 there’ll be a pilot to see if we can use satellite technology to fight weed cultivation in the rural area,” Timp said by phone on Friday. “The first contacts were a few weeks ago; it’s very preliminary.”
The European space agency is trying out technology to distinguish cannabis from other crops by measuring wavelengths of light reflected from the plants, according to Timp. Marijuana was found at 53 locations in Limburg this year, mixed in with crops of corn and asparagus as well as in forested areas, according to Venlo officials.
Police now use helicopters to find cannabis plots hidden among other crops, according to Jos Klaren, spokesman for the Dutch national police service. Satellite technology may be helpful in finding the illegal crops more “quickly,” he said.
The satellite imaging technology that will be used to detect marijuana plants has already been used successfully in Canada in 2007, Timp said.
Swiss police said in 2009 that they had stumbled across a “large marijuana plantation” while using Google Earth, reports Dvorak Uncensored
. Officers said the find was part of a bigger investigation that led to the arrest of 16 people and the seizure of 1.2 tons of cannabis as well as cash and valuables worth 900,000 Swiss francs ($780,000).
That plantation, almost two acres in size and containing 15,000 plants, was hidden inside a field of corn. But officers using Google Earth to locate the addresses of two farmers suspected of involvement in the operation said they quickly spotted the illegal crop.