Three persons in Limassol have been arrested following a raid at an abandoned shop where drug squad officers uncovered an elaborate grow operation of illegal marijuana.
According to an official report, police received a tip regarding a marijuana grow operation in Limassol, inside an abandoned shop that had been modified to accommodate a large number of cannabis plants.
Law enforcement agents acting on a search warrant raided the place, described as a room adjacent to at least one other shop, with officers arresting two men in their early sixties, while another woman also in her early sixties was arrested later on.
“Two men aged 62 and 61 who were found inside the establishment were detained after being caught in the act,” a police report said.
'I understand if people are afraid to say something when they notice something wrong is going on but it is important for the public to work together with authorities'
Drug Squad commander Michalis Katsounotos said officers were still in the process of cataloguing evidence in the room, including a large number of cannabis plants found growing in plastic flower pots as well as green dried hemp.
Katsounotos, who was a guest on state radio Tuesday morning, said he was surprised that the operation seemed to have been going on for some time.
“I understand if people are afraid to say something when they notice something going on but it is important for the public to work together with authorities,” Katounotos said, adding that all tips are accepted and evaluated including those who are anonymous.
Police also found indoor grow lights, an air ventilation system, drying devices, a water tank, among other pieces of evidence, including a large sum of money in what appeared to be counterfeit bills.
Stealing power from neighbors
Katsounotos also said officers could not complete the search due to safety concerns.
The commander went on to explain that officers discovered evidence in another room, where eight more plants were found, that someone had tampered with the electric service by trying to bypass the electric meter at a service panel.
Signs for next-door tenants to be suspicious
Experts say tenants tampering with the electricity meter or wiring is often a sign of an illegal activity regarding cannabis production, while other signs include mould, condensation, and excess humidity in a property. Another obvious sign one may be suspicious of the neighbors growing pot next door include fertilizer and gardening equipment that may be in excess for the size of private garden.
Police also carried out searches in the homes of the two suspects. A woman described as the wife of one of the suspects was also detained after officers found 10 grams of cannabis and a weed grinder in the residence.
Recreational versus medical
Recreational marijuana is not legal in the Republic of Cyprus, while in previous years, the legal use of cannabis for medical purposes had to be approved by the health minister.
A new law in early 2019 made the use of medical cannabis legal, with legislation stipulating strict criteria and less than a handful of permits for a number of years.
It was understood that Israeli companies were serious contenders for massive production of medical cannabis on the island, while more local jobs were expected to be added in the industry.
But legal issues have caused delays with the Legal Department trying to resolve issues with permits.
According to estimates, medical cannabis production in Cyprus could become a market estimated at €250 million every year.
Cyprus, as part of the EU single market, would allow a firm registered on the island to reach customers in a variety of countries without having to repeat many regulatory checks.