Authorities yesterday announced the discovery of a state-of-the-art “marijuana factory” in the hills of Keelung and arrested a man surnamed Hung (洪), who they suspect is the mastermind behind the cannabis cultivation operation.
A Criminal Investigation Bureau spokesperson said they followed up a tip and went to a house on a hill in the north of Keelung.
The mission was headed by members of the bureau’s 7th Investigation Unit, authorities said, adding that Hung was arrested as he left the house.
Inside the premises, officers found 99 cannabis plants, along with a host of technical equipment and agricultural machinery.
“It was very impressive. This ‘marijuana factory’ was quite a professional set-up,” unit vice captain Lu Sung-hao (呂松浩) said. “It had an excellent ventilation system with fans and dehumidifers. There were also sodium lamps and other lighting sources, carbon dioxide gas tanks and bags of fertilizer and soil nutrients.”
The officers said that sodium lamps are use to provide light to seedlings for up to 12 hours a day, while carbon dioxide is used to promote faster plant growth.
They said the cannabis plants were segregated into sections so irrigation, temperature and humidity levels could be adjusted and fertilizer and nutrients administered according to the plants’ size.
Hung has allegedly admitted to the marijuana operation.
He set up the operation because he owed substantial debts, the investigators said.
“I owe about NT$1 million [US$32,950], so I left Pingtung County and rented this house in Keelung to dodge my creditors. People told me that [growing and selling] marijuana can be very profitable, so I started to grow the plants to pay off my debts,” he said, according to police.
Police said Hung had a criminal record for illegal possession of narcotics and firearms.
After questioning, he was charged by the Keelung District Prosecutors’ Office for violating the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act (毒品危害防制條例).
In the act, marijuana is classified as a Category II narcotic (together with mescaline, coca leaves, opium and amphetamines).
According to Article 4 of the act, people found guilty of manufacturing, transporting or selling Category II narcotics can be sentenced to a prison term ranging from seven years to life and may be fined up to NT$10 million.
Cannabis is one of the recreational drugs most commonly sold at bars and night clubs in the nation’s major cities, and police often publicize arrests for marijuana possession at music events, such as the Spring Scream event in Kenting.
Advocates are pushing for its decriminalization, highlighting its medical value as pain reliever and in treating ailments, such as gastrointestinal disorders, insomnia and headaches.
However, law enforcement agencies cite the drug’s harmful effects such as disorientation, reduced physical coordination, as well as depression and panic attacks in some users.
Most authorities label marijuana a “soft drug,” which they say is often a gateway to “hard drugs” such as heroin, cocaine or ecstasy.
Last year, Uruguay became the first country to fully legalize cannabis use. In January, Colorado became the first US state to allow the sale of recreational marijuana to people aged 21 or older.
Currently, 20 US states permit the use of cannabis for medical purposes.