Police to target cannabis growers across the North West

Police from across the North West are launching a month-long crackdown on cannabis cultivation.

More than 5,000 cannabis factories have been uncovered across the region in the last three years, police said.

They contained over 345,000 plants with an estimated street value of £140m.

Operation Broadley will see police in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire, Cheshire, North Wales and Cumbria working together.

They will work alongside officers from Titan, the north west regional organised crime unit, and have asked the public to act as their "eyes and ears".

Det Supt John Lyons, from Titan, said: "Cannabis is not the harmless drug it is often perceived to be and is the most-used illegal drug in the UK.

"An increasing number of people who grow cannabis are directly funding dangerous, organised criminal gangs. These gangs are often responsible for gun crime, violence and intimidation across the North West.

"We appeal to anyone with any information about cannabis cultivation in their area to make contact during this month of action and beyond."

Police say tighter border controls have led dealers to grow marijuana plants in the UK rather than import it.

Cannabis cultivation offences involving 10 or more plants increased by 16% in Greater Manchester last year.

In Merseyside, there have been 1,214 people arrested on suspicion of growing cannabis in hundreds of raids in the last three years.

And in Lancashire, 485 cannabis farms were discovered between October 2010 and December 2011.

Cannabis was reclassified from a class C to a class B drug in 2009, with dealers caught selling the drug facing up to 14 years in prison.

Possession can lead to anything from an £80 on-the-spot fine up to five years imprisonment.

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