POLICE chiefs have warned that cannabis growing in the suburbs is reaching new highs. Homegrown cannabis is now more common in Britain with less being smuggled in from Asia, Caribbean and West Africa.
And it is predicted the number of cannabis farms in Gloucestershire will have risen by 89 per cent this year since 2007/8.
A national report by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) shows commercial cultivation of the class B drug continues to pose a significant risk to the UK, with increasing numbers of farms being detected by police.
Over the last two years, forces across the country seized a total of 1,096,797 plants. Based on the average street price of £134 per ounce, this has an estimated value of £207,368,447.
Commercial cultivation of cannabis is defined as 25 or more plants. A farm denotes any premises which has been adapted to grow the drug, which could feature hydroponics, high intensity lighting, ventilation and equipment to bypass the electricity meter.
There were only four cannabis farms uncovered by police in Gloucestershire in 2007/8, but this soared to 45 in 2008/9 before falling back to 28 in 2010/11. This figure is expected to rise to 37 for 2011/12, compared to just 12 in neighbouring Wiltshire. In November, the Echo reported Henry Whiting, 35, of Cutsdean Close in Bishop's Cleeve, was growing more than £40,000 worth of the drug at home.
The raid on his home is one of a number in the village in recent times. Last February, builder Graham Sutherland, 52, was jailed for 20 months when police discovered he had converted part of a 16th century manor house in Evesham Road into a cannabis factory.
He pleaded guilty at Gloucester Crown Court to the production of £15,000 of cannabis and to abstracting electricity. Anthony Went, 48, of St Paul's Road in Cheltenham, was running a sophisticated hydroponic growing operation with 27 cannabis plants that would have yielded between £10,000 and £11,000 worth of the drug. He was jailed in May for 14 months.
Police spokesman Alexa Collicott said: "Gloucestershire police take a proactive, no tolerance approach to the use and supply of illegal drugs. "As Echo readers will have seen from recent coverage of arrests made in the county, we regularly carry out operations targeting those involved in offences and do everything within our power to put them before the courts."
Cannabis remains the most commonly used illegal drug in the UK and is the most prevalent drug seized by law enforcement agencies. Anyone who knows about the supply of illegal drugs in the county should contact police on 101.
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