Radio frequency interference (RFI) generated by non-compliant electronic light fixture ballasts is helping law enforcement officials crack down on illegal marijuana grows.
According to a recent posting by San Francisco-area police officer Keith Graves on the website PoliceOne.com, indoor marijuana “grows” typically require supplemental lighting to aid in photosynthesis necessary for plant growth. The lighting setups for large indoor grows typically involve the use of high pressure sodium (HPS) or metal halide (MH) lights that depend on electronic ballast to operate properly. However, many electronic ballasts are manufactured in China and are not compliant with FCC regulations prohibiting interference with other electronic products. As a result, a continuous humming noise can often be picked up by amateur radio operators located near indoor grows.
Complaints from amateur radio operators about interference from neighborhood marijuana growers are reportedly pouring in to the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), mainly from operators in California and Colorado. However, complaining operators are also providing law enforcement officials with information needed to locate and shut down illegal grows. Operators are also locating grows simply by using a radio and a portable antenna to triangulate their precise location.