DOPEY cannabis farmers applied dozens of coats of paint to a former estate agent office in a desperate bid to cover up the drug’s tell-tale smell wafting from inside.
The drug peddlers had 60 plants worth £25,000 growing inside the office on Leith Walk with the help of hydroponic lights.
But after shopkeepers and residents began to notice the odour of cannabis, the culprits hatched the unusual plan to try and whitewash their activities.
Two mystery men spent five hours a day between Monday and Friday painting and re-painting the exterior of the corner premises, further arousing the suspicions of curious locals. After finishing a coat they would immediately start another – smothering the shop front in layers of cream paint.
Muhammed Imran, 35, who runs the Home Essentials store on Leith Walk, said: “We were wondering what was going on because two men were painting the outside of the shop every day between Monday and Friday. They were white, maybe 30 to 40 years old, and did not appear to be professional painters. They were just wearing jeans and things.
“We were laughing because every time a coat dried they would start again with another one. They must have painted it dozens of times because they were doing it about five hours a day for five days.
“I think some people in the street had noticed the smell. They were obviously hoping that the fresh paint smell would cover it up but it didn’t work.”
Their brushwork was undone when police raided the property on Saturday and found the makeshift cannabis factory.
Nino Del Pozo, 24, a barman at the Victoria pub across the road, said: “Lots of police were at the shop. They were taking out bags of stuff from inside on Tuesday. You could see things like lamps and extractor fans.”
Yesterday the front shutter was bent back where police officers had forced entry to the drug factory. A strong smell of cannabis was still detectable days after the raid.
S&D Properties (Edinburgh) Ltd, which owns the premises, said an Edinburgh couple recently leased the building to turn it into a “modern antiques shop”.
But shocked staff were contacted by police who told them it had secretly been turned into a cannabis farm.
Caroline Swan, director of S&D Properties, said: “We re-leased the property towards the end of February to a married couple from Edinburgh who planned to open a modern antique shop.
“We took proof of ID and made all the relevant checks. You hear about this happening in flats but not in a shop property in such a busy street.”
Gangsters from China, Malaysia and Vietnam are said to be behind the majority of cannabis farm operations in the Lothians. In recent years, an average of 30 plants a day have been seized by police.
Farms are often uncovered by neighbours smelling the growing cannabis while others are raided after high electricity consumption from specialised lights gives them away.
It takes three to four months to grow a cannabis plant. A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Officers are following a positive line of inquiry in relation to this recovery.”