The housing crisis has presented an unlikely opportunity for those involved in the illegal “homegrown” marijuana trade, as more and more drug dealers take advantage of foreclosed homes standing empty and transform them into cannabis growing factories.
Las Vegas in particular, has seen a huge increase in the number of marijuana farms appearing in its foreclosed, uninhabited homes. In the last year, authorities in Nevada have discovered more than 130 homes converted into marijuana factories, the vast majority of which were found in Las Vegas. In one recent bust, cops discovered 878 cannabis plants growing in one home, worth a reported $2.6 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Cultivators of marijuana often spend thousands of dollars in order to transform empty homes into makeshift greenhouses. The fact that the typical home-turned-cannabis factory has blacked out windows and an empty driveway does little to arouse suspicions in foreclosure-hit neighborhoods, where such sights are becoming increasingly common as residents are forced out of their homes.
While most of America’s marijuana is either grown outside or smuggled into the country, expert growers are increasingly turning to indoor cultivation. By producing marijuana indoors, growers can control the environment better, resulting in a more potent product which can fetch a much higher price.
With so many abandoned homes in Las Vegas, it’s become the perfect place for marijuana cultivators to harvest their illegal crop without being noticed.
One elderly resident living near a foreclosed property which was recently unmasked as a drugs factory by cops spelled out exactly why foreclosure-hit neighborhoods are so popular with weed growers.
“I don’t know anyone here,” he said. “And I certainly don’t want to stick my nose into someone else’s business.”
William Sousa, a criminologist who teaches at the University of Nevada, explained that cultivators of marijuana simply saw the huge number of foreclosed homes in the state as an opportunity that was far too good to miss.
“Crime doesn’t exist without the opportunity,” he said. “And all the empty homes in Nevada present a fantastic opportunity.”