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Can Google spot pot? by Sara Schreiber to help them with muscle spasms, Recent news headlines touted “Google Earth leads to 16 arrests insomnia, back pain, post-surgical for marijuana.” The story claimed the Narcotics Unit of the police in Switzerland pain or headaches. used Google Earth to find the addresses of two farmers thought to While some sales are legal, some be part of a drug ring. It goes on to say as Google zeroed in on the are not. An Internet post describes, fields, police were able to “clearly see a large plantation of marijuana “I got my prescription about a being grown,” an area measuring 7,500 square meters. “With this week ago, and it was the easiest evidence in hand the Swiss police were able to shut down the drug thing I’ve ever done.” ring and ended up arresting 16 individuals and stopping their million- dollar illegal business,” states the AP report. A physician’s statement raises Is this possible? Could Google Earth potentially be the next tool in the question how much marijuana drug enforcement? is enough. Not likely, say drug enforcement officials. The note says, “This patient “Google Earth is about a year behind in times, so you wouldn’t uses marijuana topically, which have enough probable cause to write a search warrant, and it isn’t greatly increases his need. It is that clear unless you’re looking at a monster garden,” says Sgt. Wayne Hanson of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department Drug recommended that this patient be Enforcement Unit in California. Hanson has been in law enforcement allowed to have up to 75 marijuana for 25 years and has acted as sergeant in charge of the marijuana unit plants growing and up to 5 pounds since 2000. His agency serves about 50 warrants for marijuana culti- of dry marijuana.” vation per year — both indoors and outdoors. While Google and sim- The task force also referenced a ilar tools simply can’t be used to identify marijuana on the ground, 2008 Santa Barbara County Civil Hanson says his agency does sometimes use it to locate structures that may used in conjunction with grow operations, such as houses Grand Jury report on medical or abandoned buildings. In fact, he reports more people are moving marijuana dispensaries which con- the plants indoors and going to new extremes to hide them. cluded some facilities are largely Werner Benz, head of the media office for the Zurich State unregulated:
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