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Police Hand Out Cannabis Scratch and Sniff Cards For Drug Awareness

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By Adam Drury

Scratch and sniff cards seem like a gimmick that’s fallen by the wayside. Yet they’ve been a staple of public awareness campaigns in the UK for quite some time.

One utility company, for example, distributed thousands of scratch and sniff cards that smelled of natural gas. The idea was to help residents identify a gas leak.

But the plan backfired when residents began mistaking the smell of the cards for an actual leak, prompted several false emergency calls.

For their part, North Ireland police are riffing off a campaign launched in England in 2014. Then, the famous CrimeStoppers organization mailed out 150,000 cards to homes throughout the country.

Those cards contained more than just the heady aroma of cannabis. They were also printed with information about how to identify cannabis cultivation in particular.

Since the smell of someone smoking cannabis is distinctly different from the plant’s smell when it is growing, police wanted to educate the public as to the difference.

Besides the smells, the cards contained graphics of cannabis growing equipment and a list of “telltale signs” to watch out for.

It’s unclear what kind of information the cards sent out by the PSNI include. But the plan is for the cards to kick off a series of town meetings. Police hope North Ireland residents will come out to discuss their concerns and asks questions about cannabis.

North Ireland police insist that many people still do not recognize the smell of cannabis. “If you don’t know what cannabis smells like (many people genuinely don’t) then let us know,” said the PSNI spokesperson.

PSNI say the idea for the cannabis scratch and sniff cards came after they seized a very small bag of cannabis after searching a car during a traffic stop.

Hopefully, police won’t mistake the smell of the cards for actual cannabis possession. Having one of the cards on your person might be enough to trigger suspicion and a search from police.

Ultimately, PSNI want to educate the public so that residents can become the “noses” of the force.

According to law enforcement officials in the UK, many cannabis cultivation operations set up in houses in residential neighborhoods. There’s also the perception, and some statistical evidence to support it, that these illegal cannabis grows are often adjuncts to other serious criminal activity.

“Ordinary people who come forward and share their concerns will be our best source of information,” Chief Superintendent Bill Jephson told reporters in 2014. The PSNI has similar motivations for educating the public about the smell of cannabis.

The PSNI’s public awareness campaign comes as police organizations and civil society groups continue to push for cannabis law reform in the UK.

“Strategies that avoid criminalizing people and focus instead on health and education seem to me to offer a positive way forward,” said VP of the National Black Police Association Nick Glynn.

The PSNI, however, seem to have a different approach. Theirs is one of educating people on how to better criminalize drug users and cultivators in their communities.

It’s unclear how the PSNI obtained their cannabis scratch and sniff cards, or who made them. We don’t know how “accurate” their smell happens to be. Just make sure, if you’re in North Ireland, you’re not carrying a used one around police.

Original Publication in HighTimes.