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Mapping Ganja Farms in St. Vincent

Mapping Ganja Farms in St. Vincent

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The subject of marijuana growth, distribution and use has been a hot topic in our society today.  There are many arguments both for and against the legalization of marijuana in the United States on a federal scale and ideas on how to monitor and tax marijuana that is legal in certain states.  When observing cannabis policy debates among our politicians and leaders the focus is on home-grown cannabis and cannabis produced and transported to the United States from Mexico; small Caribbean islands are hardly on anyone’s mind.

Marijuana (aka Ganja) farms in St. Vincent identified using infrared bands on Planet satellite imagery. Marijuana reflects more infrared light than the native vegetation in the area, making it easily distinguishable.

While the Caribbean may not be considered a hot spot for marijuana production, it does have its own drug problem and, consequently, its leaders must make their own policy decisions regarding its legalization and criminalization.  St. Vincent in the Grenadines, in particular, must begin to review its policies and evaluate their effectiveness to determine whether or not a change is needed.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a small island chain located in the Lesser Antilles Islands Arc.  It is about 389 km in size and has a population of roughly 110,500 people.1 According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy, “St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the source for the majority of cannabis in the Caribbean.”2 Not only that, but St. Vincent and other Eastern Caribbean islands are positioned directly in the corridor for illegal narcotic shipments, primarily from Venezuela.  These shipments can be tracked to North American, European and Eastern Caribbean markets.  This report indicated to the government of St. Vincent that they needed to take a harder look at their marijuana and drug policies.

As a part of a landcover survey project for St. Vincent and the Grenadines a special look was taken at marijuana production on the main island of St. Vincent.  Marijuana, or ‘Ganja’, farms were found primarily on the northwestern side of the island.  Marijuana reflects more infrared radiation than the plants around it, making it brighter on IR imagery and identifiable with the correct resources.  Planet imagery of St. Vincent and the Grenadines was gathered and used to analyze the island.  A 3×3 majority filter was applied to the raw imagery to eliminate pixel noise and then infrared bands were assigned on the acquired imagery to select locations on the imagery that yielded the greatest amount of infrared return.  This method proved to be simple and effective in identifying Ganja farms with a high degree of confidence throughout the main island.

1 “St. Vincent and the Grenadines Population 2019,” World Population Review, accessed 8 July, 2019, http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/saint-vincent-and-the-grenadines-population/

2 “2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report,” U.S. Department of State, accessed 5 April, 2019, https://2009-2017.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2012/index.htm

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