Pot-Sniffing Plane Spying on Bay Area

By Matt Baume
|  Wednesday, Sep 29, 2010  |  Updated 1:32 PM PDT
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The plane in question resembles this Cessna.

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Hey, what's that up in the sky? A bird? A plane? A plane with a spy in it?

A low-flying plane over Oakland and Berkeley has residents looking suspiciously upward lately. Some suspect it's the work of law enforcement officers looking for pot-growers to harass. According to the East Bay Express, the model, low altitude, and tendency to linger all indicate an impending narcotics bust.

In particular, the plane could be looking for heat islands or that particular shade of green that indicates pot.

Dozens of complaints to the airport about the plane's noise haven't helped matters, other than a confirmation that "public safety" operations have been occurring in the sky lately.

Using thermal imaging on houses has been ruled unconstitutional, but according to one narcotics veteran, that hasn't stopped law enforcement agencies from using them.

So who's up there? It's hard to say. The FBI claims it isn't them, as does the DEA. Is the Department of Justice involved? A spokesperson said that they don't tend to pursue medical marijuana users, but pot busts remain as frequent as ever.

Some growers looking to evade detection opt to move their operation into the basement and vent heat into sewers. Reflective materials can thwart thermal imaging, and food dyes can alter the telltale green as spotted from the air.

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