At the beginning of October, a hiker walking through the Los Montes de Málaga natural park noticed a strange smell that mixed with the fragrances of rosemary, thyme and pine in the environment.

It seemed to come out of a shop – a typical roadside restaurant – closed a few years ago and located near the municipality of Colmenar.

He called 091 and the National Police launched Operation Lepanto. A team of agents monitored the movements around the old building, verified an illegal connection to an electricity tower and perceived the same aroma as the Sunday.

A month later they broke into the farm, where they discovered 1,300 marijuana plants and another thousand pots prepared for another shipment along with lamps, extractors and fans. Four people were arrested.

Researchers are beginning to get used to the many and varied spaces that, like this old business, maría producers use to avoid the gaze of strangers and police pressure. \

The attic of a gymnasium, industrial buildings, greenhouses, luxury chalets, hideouts , underground rooms on tennis courts, indoor swimming pools, floors occupied or even trucks are some of the places used to hide the plantations. “Creativity is infinite,” says one of the police officers who led the Lepanto operation.

Marijuana cultivation is going through a golden age in Spain. In 2019, 1.3 million plants were seized, 65% more than the previous year, as well as 32 tons of buds, 10% more than in 2018, according to the Ministry of the Interior, which has bought more shredders to get rid of the intervened.

A historic record that specialists believe will be exceeded in the balance of 2020. The territory where production is concentrated is Andalusia, which accumulates a third of apprehensions – more than 11 tons and 663,429 specimens – and is the main exporter of this plant to Europe, especially to the northern countries.

“There is no province that is free from this type of activity,” says the memory of the Andalusian Prosecutor’s Office in 2020, that criticizes the permissiveness of part of the population.

In any case, there is not an Andalusian green monopoly: in Valencia and Alicante there were also around two tons seized in 2019, and in Madrid and Barcelona they exceeded 3,000 kilos.

The climate in the south is good for outdoor plantations almost all year round, but the highest growth is registered in indoor crops.

It is enough to acquire seeds legally in any grow shop (establishments dedicated to the sale of products related to the cultivation of cannabis), acquire lamps, pots and fans on the internet and embark on an activity not excessively punished by law – the maximum penalty for Marijuana trafficking is four and a half years in jail — and especially lucrative.

A medium-sized plant can generate about 500 euros of profit, a figure that multiplies up to four times a year because each harvest requires just one quarter. The family that grew 18,000 specimens in a large greenhouse in Cajiz (Vélez-Málaga) knew it well whose production was valued at 43 million euros.

In Almería, sources from the Civil Guard explain that large organizations tend to grow under plastic on a large scale with up to 40,000 plants in one go.

“But the most common are small plantations in occupied homes that the brick crisis left empty,” says an investigator, who discovered a criminal who had excavated a room under his house, in the Almeria countryside, which he accessed through a hatch under the sofa. “You could see the foundations.”

The locations usually change from time to time. “If you stay in the same place, the neighbor, a worker … someone ends up talking,” says the Chief of Narcotics of the National Police in Malaga.

There is an exception: the underground plantations that, according to the researchers of the Granada Civil Guard, are a growing formula with which traffickers seek to avoid prying eyes and smells that give away their work.

Zulos have been found under the ground or underground containers and even on trucks, as happened in Albolote (Granada), to gain mobility and take the pots elsewhere in the face of possible police surveillance.

In Morón de la Frontera (Seville), a gang built a tennis court with the sole objective of hiding a 200-square-meter plot to cultivate underneath. The National Police discovered 200 kilos of frozen marijuana there in November.

Nearby, in Antequera, the agents have found several houses with crops that were taking advantage of any corner, including an indoor pool.

The region is a paradise for this activity, hence the National Police deployed its agents in the Greenland operation last November: they arrested 26 people and seized 1,600 plants in 15 different locations. Sometimes criminals aim higher: in December,

The large plantations are related to organized crime, which supplies Europe with marijuana produced in Spain in exchange for large amounts of money: the price per kilo is multiplied by four on the way to the Nordic countries. There are different methods for distribution.

The use of postal parcels is increasing, although it is also more dangerous, and it prevents the shipment of large quantities. The most common is to vacuum-pack the buds and hide them in trucks under tons of other products, be they zucchini, garlic, concrete blocks or furniture. “We found a shipment hidden inside sofas,” recalls an agent from Almería.

There are those who are sophisticated about the system, such as the Amsterdam-based organization that created an Asian spice import and export company to camouflage among themselves the marijuana they acquired in Malaga and Alicante and sold in the Netherlands.

Others seek simplicity: this is the case of the supposed painter who was driving a van in Malaga where, between brushes and cans of paint, he carried 77 kilos of buds in garbage bags. Once again, the scent gave him away .

The locations usually change from time to time. “If you stay in the same place, the neighbor, a worker … someone ends up talking,” says the Chief of Narcotics of the National Police in Malaga.

There is an exception: the underground plantations that, according to the researchers of the Granada Civil Guard, are a growing formula with which traffickers seek to avoid prying eyes and smells that give away their work.

Zulos have been found under the ground or underground containers and even on trucks, as happened in Albolote (Granada), to gain mobility and take the pots elsewhere in the face of possible police surveillance.

In Morón de la Frontera (Seville), a gang built a tennis court with the sole objective of hiding a 200-square-meter plot to cultivate underneath. The National Police discovered 200 kilos of frozen marijuana there in November.

Nearby, in Antequera, the agents have found several houses with crops that were taking advantage of any corner, including an indoor pool. The region is a paradise for this activity, hence the

National Police deployed its agents in the Greenland operation last November: they arrested 26 people and seized 1,600 plants in 15 different locations. Sometimes criminals aim higher: in December,

The large plantations are related to organized crime, which supplies Europe with marijuana produced in Spain in exchange for large amounts of money: the price per kilo is multiplied by four on the way to the Nordic countries.

There are different methods for distribution. The use of postal parcels is increasing, although it is also more dangerous, and it prevents the shipment of large quantities.

The most common is to vacuum-pack the buds and hide them in trucks under tons of other products, be they zucchini, garlic, concrete blocks or furniture. “We found a shipment hidden inside sofas,” recalls an agent from Almería.

There are those who are sophisticated about the system, such as the Amsterdam-based organization that created an Asian spice import and export company to camouflage among themselves the marijuana they acquired in Malaga and Alicante and sold in the Netherlands.

Others seek simplicity: this is the case of the supposed painter who was driving a van in Malaga where, between brushes and cans of paint, he carried 77 kilos of buds in garbage bags. Once again, the scent gave him away.

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