MPs have demanded a debate with government ministers to discuss the policing of maize fields in Limburg used by criminals to grow cannabis, the Telegraaf reported on Friday.
The request, by CDA MP Jaco Geurts, was made after the paper reported on Thursday that farmers in Limburg had decided to check their crop for cannabis using drones. Farmers started taking action because cutbacks meant police would no longer continue their so-called helicopter ‘weed flights’.
But although the fight against cannabis has been a successful one in recent years chairman Léon Faassen of the Limburg agricultural union LLTB fears the discontinuation of the flights will encourage criminals to try again.
‘We want to keep our fields free of cannabis and together with our members we will do just that,’ he told the Telegraaf’.
Faassen is also worried about the safety of farmers. ‘Farmers are being put under pressure to allow cannabis and farmers who discover people on their land also run a risk.’
‘We can’t leave the farmers to fend for themselves. Farmers are being forced into a corner and have to take action themselves to expose the weed mafia,’ Geurts told the paper. The Christian Democrats’ support is mainly concentrated in the agricultural provinces.
The use of maize fields to grow cannabis ‘for free’ is a popular among criminals, the Telegraaf said.
In 2009 police found some 45,000 cannabis plants among maize in Limburg with a street value of €10m. Sweet corn predominates in Limburg which has always been fertile ground for illegal cannabis plantations. The quality of the ‘corn cannabis’ is not as good as conventionally grown weed but is ‘excellent for export purposes’, the paper said.
Some farmers’ fields are invaded more than once. One farmer who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions, told the paper that this year he found cannabis among the sweet corn for the third time. ‘I was harvesting and suddenly I saw cannabis plants everywhere. There were about a hundred. The criminals had pulled out my crop and put in cannabis seedlings that were grown in greenhouses.’
The drones will be flying in the first week of September when the corn is harvested and will cover five hundred fields.
The Telegraaf’s anonymous farmer welcomes the weed drone but thinks the situation is ‘unhealthy’.
‘A lot of criminality in the country side is linked to cannabis growing. There should be a police clamp down because these are not people with a couple of plants for their own use but tough criminals. It’s the police who should go after them, not the farmers,’ the paper quotes him as saying.