This scratch-and-sniff story has been making the rounds for a few weeks and the Wall Street Journal printed its version yesterday. Stedin Netbeheer BV, a Dutch company that operates an electric power grid, has been getting taken for $15 million a year by pot growers who steal electricity to run the lights and fans in their secret grow houses.
(Pot remains illegal to grow in the Netherlands, even as coffee shops are permitted to sell joints: “The paradox puzzles even Dutch law enforcement.”)
Stedin works with police to identify grow houses based on telltale patterns of power usage. Still, they figured they need to ask for the public’s help in tracking down more pot-growing power thieves. Thus the brainstorm—a pot-scented scratch-and-sniff mailer.
This year, Mr. Meijer [Stedin’s top anti-fraud guy] sent out the scented cards and asked customers for help. “We wouldn’t ask people to spy,” he says. “Just sniff on this card, and if you smell that in your neighborhood, give us a call, and we’ll do the rest.”The WSJ’s John W. Miller gets some interesting details on the project.
Mr. de Borst, the antidrug official, helped make it happen. Police petitioned the district attorney in Rotterdam for the right to distill 40 kilograms of hemp, seized during a raid, into 50 centiliters of oil. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, was removed. They found a printer in France to make the cards and secured exemptions from French and Belgian customs.As I note in my book, THC is odorless and thus its removal will have little effect on the scent of the distilled oil. The bigger question is whether Rotterdam police hemp oil smells like pot plants. More specifically, does it smell like whatever leaks out of your neighborhood grow house? Rose concrete, or rose absolute smell rose-like, but no one would mistake either for a rose blossom. Ditto patchouli oil and a handful of patchouli leaves.
The 30,000 pamphlets were posted in early November. If the campaign works, it will be rolled out for the whole country.
Experiments described in my book cast substantial doubt on whether the scent of immature cannabis plants can be detected outside a home or vehicle. In other words, the probative value of the scent on Stedin’s mailer is questionable. Does it raise awareness of energy theft and encourage people to drop a dime on suspicious venues? Maybe, along with a lot of false positives and vindictive false claims. Will it make a lot of Dutch pot virgins slap their foreheads and say, “D’oh! That smells like Wouter’s house!”? I doubt it.