While the United States has legalized cannabis throughout most of the country, the plant remains illegal throughout most of the world. Regardless, it’s remained one of the most popular illicit substances in other countries.
Especially Australia, where it’s estimated that around 34.8% of Australians 14 years and older have tried the plant at least once. While it is allowed in certain Australian states for a variety of different reasons, the black market is more prevalent there than ever before. In fact, illegal suburban grow houses, hidden in plain sight, are scattered throughout the continent.
ABC 7.30, the Australian news syndicate, took a look at some of the common suburban grow houses currently plaguing Australia. Their findings shed a whole new light on Australia’s black market as a whole.
Suburban Grow Houses Are Being Shutdown By Australian Police
According to ABC Investigative reporter Nico Bucci, Australian police believe most of the suburban grow houses are owned by a number of Vietnamese organized crime networks. Jack Ta, a migration agent who represents a large number of young Vietnamese workers who are charged with being illegal crop sitters, told Bucci that he believes thousands of operations are owned by the Vietnamese.
“I would say in hundreds, if not thousands,” estimated Ta. They may be next door to you, they may be anywhere.”
Bucci also explained that despite the influx of grow houses, Sydney, in particular, has made a larger effort to shut down the houses. The operations, Bucci explained, can each generate over a million dollars a year in illegal revenue.
“In south-western Sydney, Strike Force Zambesi is busting cannabis grow-houses at the rate of two a week,” Bucci said. “Each house can generate a million dollars profit a year.”
Australian police have cracked down significantly on the illegal operations. However, it’s unclear if they have managed to seriously disrupt the racket. According to Detective Inspector Gus Viera, the amount of Suburban Grow Houses are seemingly endless.
“We are up to over 550 search warrants. We have nearly have seized $200 million worth of cannabis plants,” Viera said. “I don’t know whether we are actually making a dent into it or not because we could be disrupting one hit today and another four or five could be popping up.”
The Many Levels of Suburban Grow Houses
Peter McErlain, the head of the New South Wales Drug Squad, told Bucci that the operations are fairly extensive. Typically, they contain many tiers of workers.
“The top-level obviously the mastermind or people who are directing the whole operation,” McErlain said. “You have got that middle level where it is the logistic side of things and then you have the bottom level where you have the crop sitter who will provide the security for the house. They will provide the labor to mind the crop and then harvest it once it has grown.”
And while the grow houses are problematic in itself, they pose a bigger threat entirely. According to McErlain, most of the operations help fund far more devious operations.
However, McErlain believes police have the right mindset. He ended the segment noting that his force is looking for high-ranking syndicate members. This is a method the New South Wales Drug Squad believes is beneficial in stopping the flow of illegal drugs.
“We are chasing them. They are in our sights.”
The actual number of suburban grow houses in Australia remains unknown. Police aren’t sure if they’re even making a dent with their average of two busts per week. Who knows how much cannabis is being grown in plain sight in Australian homes?