Police smash 120 major commercial cannabis grows in Mansfield and Ashfield

Cannabis plants
Cannabis plants

Almost 120 cannabis grows have been smashed by police in the last four years across Mansfield and Ashfield, figures have shown.

Cops discovered the biggest cannabis operation in more than three decades recently when intelligence led them to a warehouse in Kirkby containing more than 1,500 plants with a street value of nearly £1 million.

Statistics have revealed that Mansfield and Ashfield has yielded more successful raids than any other area of the Nottinghamshire since 2011, apart from the city of Nottingham.

They figures detail the number of busts in which 25 plants or more are found, or associated equipment such as heating and lighting have been found.

There were 27 in 20011/12, 35 in 2012/13, 35 in 2013/14 and 22 in 2014/15, totalling 119.

During the same period there were 62 found in Bassetlaw and Newark and Sherwood, and 84 across Gedling, Broxtowe and Rushcliffe.

Farms found in the city of Nottingham exceeded 320.

Supt Matt McFarlane said many of the raids are the result of tip-offs from the public, who are becoming fed-up of drug issues blighting their communities.

He said: “Quite often the smell can be a giveaway, or people reporting suspicious activity.

“More often than not, somebody will ring up because they don’t want this going on in their street.

“Cannabis is still an issue, it’s still out there.”

While confusion often reigns between users over the classification of the drug, which was relegated to Class C in 2004 but moved back up to Class B in 2009, he says anyone who is convicted of producing cannabis for commercial gain will almost certainly face a prison sentence.

“If you are producing there’s a good chance you will go to jail, we would push for it,” added Supt McFarlane.

“The risk with these grows is the context in which they operate, sometime they are linked to organised crime.

“Where there is drugs, there’s money and where there’s money there’s often violence, so it brings with it a lot of risks.”

Many people are often forced to oversee the production, and it is not uncommon for young men from South East Asia to be brought over and forced to be ‘gardeners’, to ensure the plants reach their full potential.

Supt McFarlane said he has come across a lot of ‘sad stories’ in which these men are given little choice but to do the work, for fear of their lives or their families, and will quite often be jailed.

He also warned about the health risks as the strength and potency of cannabis has increased over the years.

With the market once dominated by ‘hash’, solid blocks of cannabis, the high-powered skunk varieties - named because of their stronger smell - are now commonplace.

“Some people are unaware how strong it is and how much impact it can have, particularly teenagers,” he added.

“There’s growing evidence that it’s certainly not a harmless drug.

“In recent years there have been new strains and breeds being grown that are much stronger.”