High electricity costs; theft on the increase to facilitate marijuana growing



An increase in the cultivation of marijuana is driving higher theft of electricity
An increase in the cultivation of marijuana is driving higher theft of electricity

In the US, several people have been arrested for growing marijuana and subsequently stealing electricity. A man in Hazleton was arrested for growing 163 marijuana plants, being in possession of 55 marijuana grow lights that were operated by electrical ballasts. He is believed to have stolen electricity worth $40 000 to keep his operation going.

In Las Banos, the Merced Sun Star reported that police had arrested 3 men for growing marijuana with a street value of $2 million. According to Merced Country Sheriff’s Deputy, Ray Framstad, they are also suspected of stealing electricity. He told local media that the complicated set up of electrical wiring used in the growing of the marijuana involved a large amount of utility theft and created a serious fire hazard.

“All the electricity they pulled to operate the lights had melted underground electrical wires,” he said.

Earlier this year PG&E estimated a total loss from the power theft at more than $16,000 when police and drug agents raided a location and seized 876 marijuana plants and discovered an electrical bypass in place.

And in a Palisades Place residence investigation, it was determined that 815 marijuana plants were being cultivated on the premises.

“Sophisticated long-term operations like these affect your neighborhood safety on a number of levels” Sheriff Jay Varney told the Chowchilla News. “They steal tens of thousands of dollars in power which affects what you pay. They waste enormous amounts of water on their illegal grow operations.”

Asia seeing increase in marijuana growth

In Korea, police have arrested a man in his thirties for growing 46 marijuana plants in his 109m2 apartment. The value of the bust is estimated at US$1.8 million and it is believed that the plants could have served up to 92 000 individuals.

The man created a greenhouse environment using LED lights and tents, and had an electricity bill of between 800 000 and 1 million won ($720 – $900) per month.

Grow House Electricity Tax
Meanwhile, the residents of Arcata in the US have seen a drop in the number of meters classed in the ‘taxable high-energy use range’. This comes after legislation was passed in 2012 which determined that residential electricity use in excess of 600% of baseline use would be classed as high energy use and therefore subject to a High Energy Users Tax. The new law was implemented in November 2014.

As of this April, only 76 of the total 8 500 electric meters in Arcata now fall into the taxable high-energy use range. This is down from 633 meters in 2011.

While Arcata has usage drop by 1.3 million kilowatt-hours, Arcata Mayor, Michael Winkler told the Lost Coast Outpost: “Revenue from this tax is less than we originally projected. But usage by high users is much lower than expected, which is the purpose of the tax. We have also drastically reduced large-scale indoor residential marijuana growing at no cost to the vast majority of residents of Arcata.”