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India Deploys Drones to Spot Cannabis Patches




In the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, the state police department unveiled plans on Sept. 23 to deploy a fleet of drones to spot illegal cannabis patches in remote areas. Law enforcement in the area is currently grappling with the impenetrable rocky cliff sides that locals choose to avoid prosecution.

Himachal Pradesh’s proximity to Nepal makes it an ideal hotspot for cannabis cultivation and the production of hashish. Himachal Pradesh leaders say they have reduced cultivation on private land in the area to five percent. But the bulk of cannabis cultivation, at 95 percent, is grown in high altitude areas that require travel through “perilous terrain.” Those areas include the districts of Kullu, Mandi, Shimla, Sirmaur and Chamba. Nepalese laborers are used to hostile terrain and can handle high elevations and cliffsides.

Law enforcement has narrowed down drone-making companies to two for selection. “As wind velocity is quite high in higher reaches, we are in the process of buying drones, which can provide high-end thermal images of cannabis cultivation in inaccessible areas. Two companies have been shortlisted and specifications are being worked out,” SP Narcotics SP Ashok Kumar told Tribune India.

While the prevalence of regular cannabis consumption in India is low at 1.2 percent of the population, its more than double in Himachal Pradesh at 3.2 percent, according to the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre in New Delhi. That is part of the reason why authorities are focusing on the area to eradicate illegal cannabis farms. Cannabis, however, is a popular inebriant overall in India. Delhi, for instance, ranks as the third-highest cannabis-consuming city in the world.

Locals in the area frequently turn to opium or cannabis cultivation as it generates more money than legal crops. Now authorities in the area have access to diesel-operated bush cutters and drone technology, which makes the eradication efforts much easier.

Smokable cannabis isn’t the only consumption method India is cracking down on. Meanwhile, India took a bold stance by banning all e-cigarettes following reports of serious health problems linked to vaping.