Belfast Telegraph

PSNI launches 'scratch and sniff' cards to whiff out cannabis farms in Northern Ireland

By John Mulgrew

The PSNI has launched 'scratch and sniff' cannabis cards to enlighten members of the public unfamiliar with the drug's heady aroma.

The campaign - which is being launched with the Crimestoppers charity - aims to inform the public about what the plants smell like so they can alert police to dope farms in their area.

As well as giving the public a whiff of the drug, the campaign highlights telltale signs that a house or flat is being used as a cannabis farm.

That includes constantly covered windows and strong lighting always being on.

The cards also feature a short line to alleviate any concerns the public may have about inhaling the drug.

"It's completely safe. There are no drugs in the card."

Police have said the cards are being handed out as new figures show a 44% increase in cannabis factories across Northern Ireland.

Some 130 cannabis growing operations were uncovered between April 2013 and March 2014, police have said.

The idea isn't new - with forces across the UK already having already used the novel scheme.

Cards loaded with the smell of cannabis are being handed out in 17 police forces across England and Wales.

PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said the cards were being distributed "so that they will be able to recognise the signs and smells of cannabis factories in their local communities".

"We know that people may not realise that the empty, run down house or flat on their street with people coming and going may actually be a cannabis factory. It’s not just the stereotype of the remote rural dwelling or disused industrial unit," he said.

Justice Minister David Ford said said the campaign would "enable members of the community to help tackle the drug problem in our society".

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