Marijuana Growers Moving to Suburbia

High housing affordability in the suburbs is attracting marijuana cultivators looking for room to grow.

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A quiet, suburban neighborhood is probably the last place you would expect to find a den of druggies with an indoor marijuana farm.

But thanks to a brutal housing crisis that has driven down home prices and left foreclosures littering the streets of many once-tony neighborhoods, organized marijuana growers are moving their operations to America's suburbs to take advantage of affordable, spacious houses, according to a recent New York Times report.

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Houses that fetched upwards of $1 million in pre-crisis times have been converted into "grow houses" equipped with special lights, water, and air-filtering systems required to produce quality cannabis.

Most times, the outward appearances of these suburban houses shield what's on the inside of these homes.

"They just blended right in," Stephen Snowden of Vallejo, Calif. told the Times. Snowden lived nearby a home whose residents had converted the entire second floor of a five-bedroom, 2,251-square-foot home into a marijuana cultivation operation.

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"They left early for work and came back late in the afternoon. They mowed their lawn, took out their trash, and got groceries," he added.

Drug operations used to concentrate their activities in low-income areas, but that's changed as the nation's real estate market has taken a turn for the worse.

"You're hearing more and more in middle-class, upper-middle-class, high-end neighborhoods," Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Agency told the Times.

Meg Handley is a business reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can reach her at mhandley@usnews.com and follow her on Twitter.