Dutch Police Enlist Citizen Noses in Hunt for Pot

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Here's a crime fighting idea not to be sniffed at: Dutch police have asked citizens to use their noses to help track down illicit cannabis plantations.

Police and municipalities in Rotterdam and The Hague this week mailed 30,000 scratch and sniff cards that give off the pungent odor of cannabis plants to help people identify the smell of a plantation.

"From now on, you'll be able to smell the possible danger of an illegal cannabis crop in your neighborhood," the card says, advising citizens to call police if they think they have sniffed out a plantation.

Possessing and using small amounts of cannabis is tolerated in the Netherlands, as is growing up to five plants for personal use.

The campaign launched this week is also backed by energy network company Stedin, because most cannabis plantations illegally syphon off electricity to power lights used to make plants grow.

"Cannabis cultivation has to stop," police said in a statement. "It might seem innocent, but it's not. Apart from the fact that it is illegal, interfering with water and electricity supplies often creates life-threatening situations."

Stedin said there are an estimated 40,000 illegal cannabis plantations in the Netherlands -- the highest number per capita in Europe. Police destroy about 5,000 plantations each year.