Google Earth helps both sides in the drug war.

Guerrilla pot farmers started using satellite maps, namely Google Earth, to find secluded cultivation locations years ago, as the forums on marijuana growers’ websites attest. Prospective pot planters would scout secluded clearings in forests using satellite images. The ideal spots had access to water and plenty of sun, yet weren’t near roads or hiking trails.

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The police wised up to the outlaw gardeners techniques though. Now the cops use the same eyes in the sky to spy on ganja growers.

Recently, law enforcement officials used Google Earth to help bust an Oregon man for allegedly cultivating three times the amount of herb than he was allowed to under medical marijuana provisions, reported Grants Pass Oregon’s Daily Courier.

Oregon allows citizens to possess six mature cannabis plants, 18 immature seedlings, and 24 ounces of usable cannabis, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Growers can register to be caregivers for others and cultivate medical marijuana for them. The busted Oregon man provided caregiver service to five patients, which allowed him to grow 30 plants legally. However, the police caught him with 94 plants after using Google Earth images taken in June to scout his outdoor dank farm, reported the AP.

Twenty states now allow medical use of marijuana. For example, New Mexico now allows patients to have 16 ounces of medical cannabis and/or four mature plants and 12 young plants. State licensed producers can grow up to 150 plants. Other states have similar medical allowances, while Washington state and Colorado have legalized recreational use.

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Despite reductions in marijuana prohibition, illegal pot farms continue to cause serious social and environmental problems in the United States — and Google Earth provides a view of the damage. Besides providing massive profits to criminals, industrial-scale, illicit pot farms cause deforestation, overuse of water resources and contaminate pristine areas with agricultural chemicals. Humboldt State University’s Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research used Google Earth to create a video documenting how 600 large-scale marijuana operations scar forests in northern California, reported Mother Jones.

IMAGE: Medical marijuana sign at a dispensary on Ventura Boulevard, Los Angeles, California (Laurie Avodado,, FLICKR)