Stealth Growing: How to NOT get Caught Growing Weed
by Sirius Fourside
If you’ve ever gone to a forum for advice on growing cannabis, you’ll know that there is no shortage of opinions on what you can do to become a better grower.
Learning new tips and training techniques give you an edge in growing and help you increase your yields. However, there is one thing that I consider to be the most important part of advancing your growing knowledge…
NOT GETTING CAUGHT!
No matter how good you are at growing cannabis, if you get caught and end up in jail, you’ll be in a place where your skills are useless and wasted. Even if growing cannabis is legal where you live, there are still thieves and nosy neighbors you don’t want to learn about your garden.
But fret not! We’ve compiled this easy-to-read list of tips to help keep you out of the sight and minds of people who could ruin your life just for growing a plant.
Remember, the only thing better than increasing the potency and yields of your harvest is making sure you get to keep said harvest.
Let’s get into some tips for Stealth Growing – keeping your grow “under the radar” of other people.
First, the mantra: “No smell, no sell, no tell”
There are a lot of ways to keep you and your grow safe, but this is the heart of it all.
- No smell – No one should be able to smell your grow or smell cannabis on you. This makes you an easy target for police and marijuana haters
- No sell – Statistically, people who are growing cannabis strictly for personal use deal with far less legal trouble than people who sell their cannabis. This even applies in places like Colorado where it’s legal within the state
- No tell – Having fewer people know about your grow reduces the chances of you getting busted by law enforcement or burglarized by thieves. I know it’s hard not to show off your awesome growing skills, but this one secret that needs to stay a secret. In fact, telling someone about your grow is the easiest way to get yourself in trouble. Remember, if you can’t keep your own secret, how can you expect them not to tell someone else?
Growing Indoors vs. Outdoors
There are benefits to both of these growing methods, but when it comes purely to stealth, indoor growing is the way to go. Indoors, you can completely control smell and sound, plus your plants are out of view. Outdoor growing has one potentially major problem that indoor growers are pretty much safe against… people wandering by. This is especially problematic when the plants are being grown on your property. Many outdoor growers have been busted by nosy neighbors, city/utility workers, or just bad weather (floods have revealed hidden outdoor grows, for example). If you can grow indoors, you’ll make yourself that much harder to find.
It’s more stealthy to grow indoors – no one can stumble upon your plants
In the vegetative stage, some plants have a cannabis smell from the beginning, but most strains tend to make a clean, fresh smell akin to the gardening section in a home improvement store. But once plants get bigger and especially after flowering kicks in, the smell can range from tame to “WHAT IS THAT SMELL?!”
Luckily, this can be easily corrected with several products like carbon filters for in the grow room, or odor neutralizers for living spaces. Some growers use diffusers or candles to help cover up smells on an emergency basis. Additionally, you can try growing cannabis strains that are known for having a more neutral smell (like the ones listed below). The goal is to make sure that the smell stays within your grow space, and doesn’t find its way into your living areas.
Important Note: Odor neutralizers with perfumes should not share the same air as your plants, meaning they shouldn’t be placed in your tent with your cannabis or the perfume smell might get onto your buds. Check out this PSA for more info.
Low Odor Marijuana Strains – Strains known for producing low/non-marijuana-like odor:
- Blue Mystic
- Master Kush
- Jack Herer
- Auto Duck is an example of an auto-flowering strain that is great for stealth growing due to its smell (or lack thereof) and a unique shape that doesn’t look quite like cannabis leaves
- Northern Lights Auto
Note: Smells are usually more intense when the environment gets hot and humid.
Low odor strains definitely aren’t fool-proof, but they can help make things easier. These are just a few examples of strains that are known to have a relatively low or neutral smell, but there are many others. Learn more about researching strains.
“What’s that smell?”
When buying any kind of electrical device, look up reviews on the product to make sure it runs quietly. A low-quality exhaust fan or air pump will cause people to be suspicious since they make lots of noise and typically run all day and night.
Exhaust fans and air pumps of especially low quality can raise even more suspicion by vibrating. This can make your grow noticeable through multiple walls!
Tips for quiet operation
- Use stealthy devices known to be quiet – it often helps to get quality equipment
- Don’t get a fan that’s way too powerful for your space, as bigger fans are noisier
- Install your exhaust fan inside your tent instead of outside, and try to hang it as opposed to letting it sit on something. Hanging your fan from the inside of my tent (which you can easily do with rope ratchets, large zip ties or even bungee cord) will reduce the amount of fan noise greatly.
- Keep the path for ducting as straight and short as possible. Extra bends and length will increase noise because of the air moving through the ducting, as well as because it makes your fan work harder.
- Use insulated ducting to help keep sounds inside
- Make sure your cool air intake hole is big enough. Your intake hole(s) where you get air should be near the bottom of the grow space and in total about 4x as big as the exhaust hole. If the fan is having trouble getting enough air it will run louder (and it’s hard on the fan)
- Use something that reduces sound around the outside of the fan, like egg crate material or foam. If there is foam between the fan and the place where it’s mounted it will help reduce vibration. Some people will also use an insulated box around the exhaust fan.
- Be aware of where the noise is going. Keep fans away from shared walls, the entrance of the room, near windows where sound projects, etc
To the outside world, it should appear as if you’re doing everything as normal. As paranoid as it sounds, you should assume that anyone who sees you doing growing related activity will know what it is and report you.
- Move any growing equipment at night so you’re less likely to be seen. It’s also a really good idea to cover any growing equipment you’re transporting, for example in black trash bags. This way, no one can see exactly what it is you’re moving
- Be careful about what you throw in your trash. On the rare occasion that I do throw cannabis trash (like stems) in a trash can, I usually cover it in food trash or kitty litter so no one will want to go through it. Also, throwing away your cannabis-related trash on the day trash is picked up means there is minimal time for a snooping person to find your secret garbage.
- Make sure nothing stands out. Pick a couple of days to walk around your house at a few different times of the day to see if anything stands out as suspicious. Example of something suspicious: Super bright yellow light (HPS) coming from a window at 11:00pm. Learn how to make a stealthy exhaust system.
- Be a good neighbor! A lot of people think of cannabis growers as criminals. When you continue to act like the intelligent, well-mannered, amicable person you are, your neighbors naturally become less suspicious.
- Don’t look like a stereotypical stoner. There’s nothing wrong with wearing Rastafarian colors or pro-cannabis clothing, and it’s your right to dress and act as you wish. Just remember that police, nosy neighbors, and marijuana haters are more likely to ‘judge a book by its cover’ and harass a person based on their clothing… regardless of how unfair that is.
A Google search for “house fire marijuana” will yield stories for events in at least 7 cities (in the first 2 pages alone) where people have accidentally burned down their cannabis, their home, and everything they own in electrical fires. Most electrical safety mishaps can be prevented with a few healthy habits:
- Only purchase quality equipment. Quality parts mean fewer failures, which means fewer fires started. Fire is bad.
- Keep water and other liquids below waist level and electrical equipment above waist level. Even if this isn’t always possible, it will help to accomplish the real goal: keeping water and electrical devices separated.
- Clean up all spilled water. Having a few towels or a roll of paper towels handy makes this a breeze.
- Get a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter)These are made to interrupt power when they sense a problem with the flow of electricity. These devices can also save you from being electrocuted, so they’re definitely worth the investment.
- Don’t overload your circuits. If you live in an older house, you probably don’t want two 1000w HPS lights and high powered exhaust fans running from one room unless you know how much your circuits can take. Sticking only to what you actually need will help you in this department. For example: for indoor growing that’s strictly for personal use, a single 600w HPS can keep most people in constant over-abundance all year, every year.
- More Electrical Safety Tips (including how to figure out how much electricity your circuits can handle)
Technology and the way we communicate changes so rapidly these days, that many of us aren’t aware that we now do things that give away a lot of information about what we do. You don’t need to be a computer wizard, but these terms will definitely help you maintain your privacy in the digital age:
- Proxy: Many websites track your computer information and where you are. Proxies trick those websites into thinking you’re in a different place. Here’s a free site to try: http://www.vpnbook.com/webproxy
- Anonymous Search: I love Google and use it often, however, they do track information about searches. Google is still safe to use for normal use, but for things pertaining to cannabis, try a search engine that doesn’t track information, like https://duckduckgo.com/.
- Exif data: Exif data is a little chunk of information that comes attached to pretty much any picture you take nowadays. This can be dangerous if the picture is taken on a device with GPS (such as a smart phone), because the data will also include the location where the picture was taken. Follow this link for text instructions on how to remove this data from your photos.
Know the Law
In the U.S., many states have their own laws on how marijuana is treated. Some states will send marijuana users to jail for years, some will give them counseling, others will just give a fine, and some do nothing at all.
However, it’s important to remember that marijuana is still illegal according to U.S. federal law, as well as the law of most countries. In fact, cannabis is still classified as ‘Schedule 1’ with the US federal government; Schedule 1 is the highest (worst) classification a drug can have, and cannabis shares the classification with hard drugs like Methamphetamine and Heroin. Although this classification is obviously motivated by reasons other than public safety, it’s important to remember that you can still be prosecuted and jailed just the same.
It’s imperative that every grower spend at least a little time making sure they know the laws that apply to them to help minimize the risk of being prosecuted. Here are some resources to get you started:
- Learn where in the world it’s legal to grow cannabis
- U.S. residents, see NORML’s page for detailed up-to-date marijuana laws state-by-state: http://norml.org/laws
- Outside of the U.S., get the basics at Wikipedia’s page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legality_of_cannabis
This is a lot of information, and it still only barely scratches the surface of what it takes to grow stealthily. Over time there will be more pitfalls to watch out for, but growing your own cannabis has actually gotten easier and safer over time.
If you have quick, easily digestible tips to share, feel free to contact us.
What tools do you need for Stealth Growing?
Quiet Electronic Devices – Get devices that work without making noise:
- Silent Air Pump(for hydro)
- Low-noise Water Transfer Pump(for changing your reservoir when growing with Hydro/Bubbleponics/DWC)
- Cloudline – Very Quiet Exhaust Fans (though expensive and HUGE)
- Soler & Palau – Pretty Quiet Exhaust Fans (also expensive and big, a little less quiet but more powerful)
- Duct Silencer (these can help muffle the noise by about 50%, but it won’t make it silent; works best if you can put one before and after the fan, though you can use just one on the exit side for pretty good results)
- Carbon Filter (learn more about how to use carbon filters correctly)
- Odor Neutralizers like ONA, diffusers or candles (for use in living areas, not the grow room)
- Read the full tutorial on how to control smells
- DuckDuckGo.com – A free search engine that doesn’t track you or what you search for
- Tor Browser – Browse anonymously!
FOR SERIOUS GROWERS ONLY
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I thought I already knew it all, but after I went through this grow bible, I discovered that there were still lots of little pieces of information I could use to increase my yields and grow even more potent buds! I have gone back to it for new ideas.
Let’s get into some tips for Stealth Growing – keeping your grow “under the radar” of other people.
7 Rules You Must Follow If You Want to Grow Weed and Never Get Caught
Whether You’re Growing Indoors or Outdoors, Remember the Old Adage for Stealthy Cannabis Cultivation: Don’t Smell, Don’t Sell, Don’t Tell (Anyone)!
Being a grower is great. I personally love the process of growing! Not only is it a fun and rewarding hobby on its own, growing your own supply of marijuana saves tons of money compared to buying it. Plus, you basically get access to unlimited amounts of the highest quality weed!
What could be better, right?
Well, there is one big problem with growing… the fact that growing marijuana is either totally or at least partially illegal in most parts of the world!
Not everyone can construct a secret grow room behind a bookcase, but in this stealth tutorial, I will share a few simple but effective strategies that make it almost impossible for anyone to discover your marijuana plants.
For your security, it’s vitally important to do everything in your power to keep your cannabis garden a secret .
If you want to avoid detection, you have a responsibility to become not just reactive, but incredibly proactive to make sure you are not giving off any signs that could possibly hint that you’re growing.
In most parts of the world, cannabis is illegal or at least semi-illegal to grow. Even in places where weed is legalized in some form (for example, the 29 medical marijuana and 8 adult legalization states in the U.S.), there are still federal guidelines that mean you can get arrested for cannabis possession or cultivation, even if you’re following all the local laws. It’s true that federal officials very rarely go after small-time growers who aren’t selling, but it’s better to be safe than sorry by keeping your grow a secret from everyone.
A Secret Grow Space is a Secure Grow Space
So, if you are lucky enough to live in a state with legalized marijuana cultivation, I strongly caution you to still take the necessary precautions and keep yourself out of watchful eyes.
These rules may sound a bit overly protective, but they’ve allowed me to grow without any legal problems since I started growing over a decade ago.
Remember, even if sticking with some of these rules can be a pain, nothing is worth spending time in jail!
Rule 1: Never Tell Anyone, Not Even Your Friends, That You’ve Started Growing Weed
I know, I know, this is common sense, right?
But unfortunately, it’s not. Telling the wrong person is the number 1 most common reason growers get caught or ripped off.
Hobby growers rarely get caught by helicopters with thermal cameras or RF interference from grow lights.
At least, not compared to how many growers get caught from letting their secret out to someone they couldn’t trust.
If you want to prevent the number one reason growers get caught, you should never, ever tell a soul that you grow marijuana. No excuses.
Here’s my “never get caught, ever, for growing weed” policy: You can never trust someone else as closely as yourself. If someone isn’t actually growing marijuana with you, as a partner-in-crime so to speak, there is no reason to tell them about your growing activities.
If someone asks you where you got your weed, tell them you’d rather not talk about it and leave it at that. Better yet, don’t tell them you smoke at all if you can avoid it. Remember: If you can’t keep this incredibly important secret to yourself, how can you trust other people to keep it to themselves?
Don’t ever give hints that you know how to grow weed. If you encounter others who are talking about growing, bite your lip and act dumb!
Rule 2: Be Smart When Ordering Marijuana Seeds Online
This guide to buying marijuana seeds online will describe exactly how to maintain privacy and choose the right seed bank: https://www.growweedeasy.com/seeds
But here’s the basics.
It’s a good idea to avoid shipping marijuana seeds to the same place you’ll actually be growing your weed if possible.
However, most growers don’t have that option, including me. As a result, I have always shipped seeds directly to my house without a problem, and that seems to be what most growers do.
Still, I highly recommend paying a few extra bucks for the “stealth shipping” option the next time you order seeds. Most reputable seed banks offer this. Stealth shipping usually comes with a guarantee (they’ll reship seeds if you don’t get them), and seeds are much less likely to get confiscated during shipping because they’re hidden.
I have had my seeds confiscated a couple times over the years. The seeds were taken and the empty package arrived with a letter saying that cannabis seeds are not allowed to be shipped into the US. I understand that this happens to many growers and seed banks will usually reship the seeds if you show them the letter.
However, once you receive seeds that were shipped via stealth shipping, you’ll understand why it’s difficult for someone to intercept the package. I once actually received my seeds and the package had been opened, but Nirvana had done such a good job with the stealth packaging that the officials didn’t see the seeds and just sealed the package back up and sent it to me.
Rule 3: Consider All Sounds, Smells and Light That Come from Your Grow Space
Block all windows with light-proof fabric or blackout curtains. The incredibly bright (and unusually colored) grow lights that are needed to grow marijuana can be a dead giveaway that someone is growing weed inside, so you want to block any light from being seen outside.
A newly popular type of cannabis grow light, LECs (despite the similar name, they’re completely different from LEDs), have the benefit of producing a white-colored light that can appear less suspicious to an outsider than the harsh yellow light of HPS or the purple/pink-tinted light of most LEDs. LECs are performing surprisingly well for growing cannabis, and as a bonus, the crisp, white light makes it easier to take nice pictures of your plants.
As far as sound, grow lights can give off a hum, but usually small fans, exhaust fans, and air/water pumps for hydro are the pieces of equipment that make the most sound when growing cannabis indoors. Powerful exhaust fans can be the worst sound offenders. If you have a roommate, if you share a wall with a neighbor, or if you’ve put your grow tent in your bedroom and want to sleep at night, you need to be especially careful how you hang your exhaust fan. Additionally, try to get high quality, quiet fans, and prevent air or water pumps from sitting directly on the floor as the vibration can travel.
As far as smells, a big thing to remember is that you will get used to the smell of flowering plants, so don’t think that the smell isn’t there just because you can’t smell it.
Some strains are high-odor, while other strains are low odor or just do not smell much like typical marijuana.
Low-odor strains include Northern Lights, Papaya (smells tropical), Jock Horror, Ice (smells like jet fuel), and Blue Mystic.
Smells are usually more intense when things get hot and humid, and as you approach harvest time.
If you’re venting air outside, control odors in the vented air with a carbon scrubber. This is something that air passes through which will remove the odors before they go outside.
Rule 4: Be Smart About Comings and Goings to Your Home or Grow Area (especially with lots of growing supplies).
Even if you’re not actually selling anything, neighbors can be surprisingly alert about what you’re doing. Remember that.
If some bored neighbor is watching you, it’s going to seem weird if you’re going in and out of your house with pots, nutrients, big bags of soil or soilless grow mix, etc., especially if you don’t actually grow anything besides marijuana.
That’s why one of the best covers for growing weed is growing a few other plants, whether it’s flowers, vegetables, fruits, etc.
I keep a few flower pots with random flowers on my balcony, some rose bushes, a lime tree, and a pink jasmine plant. All this gardening is an ideal cover for growing weed.
If that’s not an option, make sure you are not observed when you come and go with supplies. Moving equipment at night helps as does covering your items with trash bags before bringing them in.
Or better yet, consider ordering your supplies online. I order “suspicious” items online from Amazon.com because usually, you can pay a bit extra for them to gift wrap your items. That way you can feel extra sure no one will be able to see what’s inside the box until after it’s inside your house.
Rule 5: Avoid House Guests
Ok, I know that’s a bit over-the-top, but how about this: if you don’t trust someone with your life, and it’s possible for them to find your weed if they’re nosy, don’t let them come anywhere near your grow.
This means that at the very least, you should lock the door to your grow room and don’t let people anywhere inside or near if possible.
I’m not saying that you should be suspicious of all people; in fact, I believe that most people are good when they aren’t under duress. However, many times it’s the case where they didn’t mean anything, but they told someone who accidentally told the wrong person.
Your friend ‘Dan’ asks why your bud is always “soooooo much better” than what he gets even with top-shelf, so you let him in on a little secret: “It’s because I grow it myself and dispensaries have got nothin’ on me!”
Later on, Dan, now proud of his friend with such amazing weed-growing prowess, goes to smoke with his friend Carla.
Carla asks, “Isn’t this the best weed you ever smoked?”
Dan replies: “Not even close. This stuff is okay, but my friend grows the best stuff you’ve ever had!”. Just then, Dan remembers you explicitly telling him to not tell anyone about your grow.
You can’t blame Dan for being excited for you, but your secret is out now, and Carla doesn’t have any incentive to not tell people about what you’re doing.
If you’re serious about privacy and stealth, I strongly recommend no more guests inside your home until after you’ve completely secured your grow area against visitors being able to access it.
If someone isn’t growing with you in a place you share, they shouldn’t know about the grow. Simple as that.
Rule 6: Consider That Helicopters with Heat Cameras Can Fly Over Your House
Law enforcement officials may sometimes search for unusual heat activity to discover marijuana grow operations.
The intense heat given off by big grow lights (especially when there’s many of them) is a dead giveaway that something unusual is going on.
If you have a large indoor garden, then you already know how hard it can be to control the heat. Controlling heat is good for your plants, but you also need to do it to avoid getting caught.
If your grow light is big enough to make it hot in your grow room, you will greatly increase your security by investing in a good exhaust system that pulls hot air out of your grow room and vents it outside (but make sure you don’t forget Step 3, get a carbon scrubber to ensure you’re not venting out the smell of your flowering plants). Good heat ventilation also makes growing less suspicious in your house. That being said, no amount of exhaust will totally offset the heat generated by a grow operation (smaller grows aren’t as easy to detect).
For growers with icy winters, try not to vent out where there is snow, as the lone melted spot from the exhaust heat can look suspicious. Learn more tips about growing indoors in cold climates.
Another option is to choose smaller grow lights that give off less heat.
Small LED panels, 315 LECs, 250W HPS and CFL bulbs are relatively low-heat grow lights which can still produce many ounces of great bud. They work especially well when one is growing a few plants in a relatively small space, though these smaller-sized grow lights generally aren’t suitable for huge grow operations (where you’d want full-size versions of LED, LEC, or MH/HPS grow lights).
No matter what setup you have, you can employ advanced growth control techniques to produce better yields by using your current grow light more efficiently.
I have used many different types of grow lights over the years, and a grow light that might be perfect for one grower can often be a poor choice for someone else. Therefore the optimal setup depends on your space, budget and overall yield goals.
Rule 7: Use Your Common Sense
It’s easy to get comfortable after a while if you’ve been growing weed for a long time.
It’s important to remember that, while medical and adult-use marijuana has been legalized in many areas, it is still considered illegal to grow marijuana in much of the world.
Never let your guard down!
Don’t spend your life behind bars
I’ll admit there may have been a bit fear-mongering in this article. It’s only because I care about the freedom of all growers and want you to be safe and secure so you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor! If you want to get access to cheaper and better-quality cannabis than what you’ll get from your typical dealer or dispensary, growing your own supply is the best way to do it!
About Nebula Haze
In response to the need for more tutorials aimed at new growers, Nebula co-founded GrowWeedEasy.com in 2010 with fellow grower Sirius Fourside.
Since then, Nebula has published dozens of growing articles in print and online and continues to dedicate herself to serving the needs of the marijuana growing community.
People often get caught in unexpected ways. Learn what you need to know to protect yourself!