Bad Radio Reception? Blame Pot Growers

Lights used in grow-ops are throwing interference
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 6, 2014 5:25 PM CDT
Bad Radio Reception? Blame Pot Growers
A Ham radio device in Silver Spring, Md, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

As marijuana operations proliferate, users of ham and AM radio frequencies are grumbling—if that makes any sense. Tom Thompson, 73, discovered the problem a few years ago when his ham radio chats with friends became harder to hear and he traced the issue to a local grow-op. With recreational or medical marijuana use permitted in nearly half the country, grow lights are using lots of electricity, and unshielded "ballasts"—the electronic systems controlling the lights—are causing the interference, USA Today reports. For ham radio operators, it's like talking in a massive thunderstorm.

The amateur radio association, ARRL, even filed a federal complaint, noting the problems are worst in Colorado and California. "We just want to make sure the manufacturers are in compliance with FCC laws," an ARRL rep said. A rep for the FCC said it is indeed aware of the issue, but the commission seems more concerned about cellphone jammers, Yahoo reports. Meanwhile Thompson has taken hold of matters, creating a $20 cable shield he gives to anyone messing with his radio—including users of halogen lamps and even camcorders. "If I can track this down, anybody can track this down," he said. "If I listen long enough, I can tell when they turn the lights off ... you can tell exactly when the harvest is." (More marijuana stories.)

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