Gardai in Kilkenny are making strides in tackling cannabis grow houses, but the illicit industry is ‘relentless’, according to one senior garda.
Speaking at a County Council joint policing committee meeting on Monday, Chief Superintendent Mick McGarry also said that landlords needed to be more careful about the tenants to whom they rent properties. Further drug seizures in recent weeks have raised concerns that Kilkenny is becoming a hotbed of cannabis grow houses.
Last Friday, another cannabis grow house was discovered by Gardai in Kilkenny. Over 270 plants worth an estimated €220,000 were seized following a search on a property on the Kells Road. It was the fourth significant cannabis plant haul in the county in the month.
“While we have got some of them, I would say there are many more out there,” said Chief Supt McGarry.
“I would encourage the general community out there to be very active. If they see anything unusual taking place, let us know and we will check it out.”
Landlords and neighbours are being warned to be extra vigilant for unusual activity at properties, such as permanently closed curtains, sporadic nocturnal activities or unusual odours. Chief Supt McGarry also says that landlords need to exercise some scrutiny as to whom they let a property.
“People are obviously closing a blind eye when they are renting a property,” he said.
“I would ask people out there who have houses rented to be careful who you are renting houses to,” he said, referring to one “beautiful house only a couple of years old that was rented out and togged out the same as a factory.”
The Chief Superintendent also said that there was less risk in grow houses than in importing drugs into the country, and that criminal elements were making large profits from the business.
“There is a huge demand out there for this sort of stuff,” he said.
“We have had considerable success [in discovering grow houses] but it is relentless.”
The growth in the trade was initially attributed to criminal gangs, often involving workers from Asia who reside in the grow houses for months at a time carrying out basic watering and lighting controls. To date, many of the arrests made have been of Asian men, who gardai say are generally undocumented, have little english, and are often being held against their will.
However, this may be beginning to change.
“Initially, it was mostly foreign gangs, but now Irish guys have realised how easy it is to set up,” said a Garda National Drug Unit spokesperson.
“It is not particularly complicated, you can buy the seeds over the internet, it’s legal to buy all the equipment.”
*For more on Kilkenny’s thriving illegal cannabis cultivation industry, turn to page 7.