How to Know if Your Neighbor Is Growing Marijuana

Patch asked Stow detectives for some tips on identifying whether your neighbor is growing pot in their house or apartment. The biggest hint is odor.

Det. Tom Gottas, of the  narcotics division, said the biggest is the smell, but there's some other tips residents should know about as well. 

Common Signs of Marijuana Grow Operations:

  • Fans, scrubbers, and air fresheners running to mask the "intense robust organic" smell of marijuana
  • Heavy traffic in the area of the house by foot, car and bike
  • Groups of people staying short periods of time
  • People coming at all hours
  • Growing marijuana takes lots of power, so watch for extra power cords and generators
  • Large amounts of trash, including vegetative trash in bags
  • Large amounts of vegetative aids such as fertilizer and planters without seeing the landscape outside of the home to go with it
  • Covered exterior vents like roof gables and no open windows to keep the marijuana smell contained
  • Power and lights are used but you never see anyone collect the mail or see a person in the yard

Detectives say they're typically suspicious of windows covered with reflective coverings, fans constantly running exhaust air from what should be a bedroom window, basement windows covered with black plastic, subjects carrying potting soil and fertilizer into the house and garden hoses running into the house.

If you don't see large amounts of trash on the tree lawn that doesn't always mean there isn't any suspicious vegetative trash somewhere. 

"A lot of these [people] now know we check their trash so they take the trimmings and clippings from the plants, in trash bags, and disgard them in a dumpster at some commercial or retail location," said Gottas. "Point being that if your neighbor is putting trash bags in his car, when they have regular trash service, and taking them somewhere, that might be suspicious."

The detectives said most of the mentioned activity happens at night. 

"If it looks suspicious and is not what normal people do, there’s probably something not right about it. And the biggest hint or clue of all is the odor," he said. "A large scale marijuana grow has a distinctive, pungent odor that’s hard to describe, but very noticeable. Sometimes they manage to mask the odor pretty well, but typically at some spot around the house there is a noticeable smell."

Living in an apartment doesn't necessarily mean someone isn't growing pot either. 

"...We have also seen small grows in closets in apartments. They are obviously not as large and as sophisticated, but they still grow some pretty nice plants," Gottas said. "We have also seen plants growing in gardens in backyards where they can fit in nicely with corn. Some have even had potted plants on their decks figuring the neighbors won’t or don’t know what marijuana plants look like and think nobody would grow it right out in the open."

brenda August 09, 2012 at 12:35 PM
you need to post how to tell if people have meth labs..marijuana is the least of falls problem...its legal in several states..we need to get the meth and heroin out of falls
debbie August 09, 2012 at 01:05 PM
I agree Brenda, meth and herion kills people. I've never heard of anyone dying from an overdose of marijuana, have you?
Ed Fisher August 09, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Absolutely spot on, Brenda and Debbie. The fact that this is article is posted under the heading "Public Safety" is ludicrous. Marijuana is about as dangerous as aspirin, and yet the police continue their obsession with it. Let's concentrate on the real problems here.......methamphetamine is the most dangerous drug problem today.
Amy Hollar August 09, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Completely agree!
Teresa August 09, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Agreed, and also somewhat McCarthyistic is my opinion. Way to entice nosy neighbors with nothing better to do than imagine all sorts of wrongful, illegal behavior.....but hey, let the wide array of panicked phone calls begin.
John Deike August 09, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Good afternoon Ed, thanks for the comment. Meth will be my next area of focus. To clarify, the public safety category, in this article, deals more with drug dealers and drug activity in local neighborhoods, not the drug itself.
Alex White August 09, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Cultivation of marijuana is legal in 14 of the 17 States-- plus DC-- where the possession of doctor recommended medical marijuana is legal. When I read this article, I couldn't help but think of "Reefer Madness." Or the 70's Falls and Akron Coppers confiscating the $15 3-finger lids. Never once did I witness them "dump it out on the ground" or make an arrest. "Go on get outta here!" Besides run-away inflation, the real odor is that after 30 years, they're still fighting the same futile war over a weed. Meth-Heads are breathing easy. And don't dare cover your windows in plastic to keep out the cold winter drafts; Nosey Nellie is on to you. And is your meter reader now an Agent of the State, and other interesting questions worth pondering over a nice cup of tea and a brownie?
FlyingTooLow August 09, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Law enforcement needs to re-direct its focus on crimes... to those that are REAL crimes. I spent 5 years in Federal Prison for a marijuana offense. While I was there, I watched armed bank robbers come and go in as little as 20 months. After 3 years 'behind the wall,' I pointed this out to the parole board. Their response: “You must understand, yours was a very serious offense.” How do you respond to that mentality? I laughed about the parole panel's comment for 2 more years (as I still sat in prison), then wrote my book: Shoulda Robbed a Bank No, it is not a treatise on disproportionate sentences, but a look at what the 'marijuana culture' is really about. People pursuing happiness in their own way. Harming no one...nor their property. That’s my contribution to helping point out just how ludicrous our pot laws truly are. I hope you check it out.
FlyingTooLow August 09, 2012 at 08:12 PM
All card-carrying members of the DEA need to read: Shoulda Robbed a Bank Here is one of its reviews: 5.0 out of 5 stars... If David Sedaris had written 'Catcher in the Rye'..this would be it, June 30, 2012 Amazon Verified Purchase This review is from: Shoulda Robbed a Bank (Kindle Edition) I have never smoked pot in my life...nor do I ever care to. I read about this book in numerous Huffington Post comments. Thought I would read it because I know nothing about marijuana or the people involved with it. I am ecstatic that I did. Funny, Funny, Funny!!! The chapters are like short stories. Stories about unloading boats with helicopters, close encounters with law enforcement, traveling through the jungles of South America. The chapter about the author's first time smoking marijuana made me feel like I was with him...coughing. All of the characters were just a group of loveable, nice guys and girls. Not what I had been raised to believe...hysterical maniacs high on pot bent on death and mayhem. They were nothing like that. If you have ever read any of David Sedaris' books, and like them...you will love Shoulda Robbed a Bank. And the crazy things happening reminded me of Holden Caufield in 'Catcher in the Rye' and the way he staggered through life. The way the words are put together are like nothing I have ever heard. I am sure I will use many of the sayings found in this book just to dazzle my friends. A terrific read. I love this book.
FlyingTooLow August 09, 2012 at 08:13 PM
The closest I have ever seen marijuana come to killing someone was during an air drop. We brought in 1100 pounds from Jamaica and dropped it in a peanut field in middle Georgia. The bales were dropped from a small plane at 125 feet altitude. One of the bales, about 80 pounds, missed my compadre by only a few feet... but it surely messed up his truck.
debbie August 10, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Keari Hoover August 10, 2012 at 12:07 PM
You guys want to bust people for marijuana too bad.. Most people growing are not harming anyone most of the people I know that grow and smoke marijuana are great people why does it matter if your neighbor grows? Have they done anything to you? Truth be told it's none of your business unless they are selling it on the corner which they are most likely not.
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