Pubdate: Sun, 9 Dec 2007
Source: New York Times Magazine (NY)
Copyright: 2007 The New York Times Company
Author: Steven Kurutz
Bookmark: (Marijuana)


For the seventh consecutive December, the magazine looks back on the 
passing year through a special lens: ideas. Editors and writers trawl 
the oceans of ingenuity, hoping to snag in our nets the many curious, 
inspired, perplexing and sometimes outright illegal innovations of 
the past 12 months. Then we lay them out on the dock, flipping and 
flopping and gasping for air, and toss back all but those that are 
fresh enough for our particular cut of intellectual sushi. For better 
or worse, these are 70 of the ideas that helped make 2007 what it was. Enjoy.


Marijuana growers have long faced a dilemma. If they grow pot 
outdoors, weather conditions are unpredictable, and plants can be 
spotted from the air or accidentally discovered. Yet if they set up 
an indoor operation in a sleepy town, their suspicious activity tends 
to draw attention. The new and counterintuitive solution of some 
growers in California is to move into a busy, upscale suburban 
neighborhood and establish a "marijuana mansion," as the street-life 
magazine Don Diva recently termed it.

A home that costs a half-million dollars or more is essentially 
converted into a weed factory: rooms are packed with hydroponically 
grown plants; fans and air ducts are installed for moisture control 
and to remove the skunky odor; the electricity box is rewired to 
steal electricity from power lines. With precision light and 
temperature control, the growers, who don't live in the houses but 
check in a few times a week, can harvest more (and more potent) pot.

According to Lt. Greg Garland of the sheriff's department in San 
Bernardino County, where more than 50 pot houses have been raided 
this year, the growers favor newer communities in outlying suburbs 
because they get more space for the money, and residents pay scant 
attention to their neighbors. "In these communities, both the husband 
and wife work; they're busy coming and going," Garland says. "One man 
we spoke to lived next to a grower for a year and wasn't even sure 
what color the guy's car was."

Curiously, the subprime mortgage fiasco helped make the phenomenon 
possible: many pot houses were purchased by first-time homeowners 
using interest-only loans, and with speculators buying houses to flip 
them, it wasn't uncommon for a home to sit empty for months. 
Authorities have started to alert the public to the signs of a pot 
house, a telltale one being a dry lawn. But, ever adaptive, the 
growers are hiring gardeners -- just like their suburban neighbors. 
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