Growing Problem: Pot Lights Give Ham Radio Operators a Buzz

Article by Marina Villeneuve, Phys.org

lifelong ham radio operator and expert tinkerer Tom Thompson poses for a photo inside his basement home office, where he operates a ham radio and other devices in Boulder, Colo. After discovering that radio interference was being caused by high-powered lights from home marijuana growers, Thompson built an electronic filter and has given them to nearby growers.

Retired Coast Guard officer Roger Johnson sometimes notices a harsh buzz when he turns on his amateur radio, and he blames high-powered lighting used to grow pot.

Amateur radio operators say the legalization of marijuana is creating a chronic nuisance thanks to caused by electrical ballasts that regulate indoor lamps used to grow pot. The American Radio Relay League wants the Federal Communications Commission to take a stand against devices that give off much more interference than federal law allows in homes.

Ham radio operators generally say they don’t have a problem with pot but worry amateur growers may not be aware that cheap ballasts can have phony FCC-compliance stickers. The operators point out they serve as backup communication during emergencies—but concede it’s unlikely any lighting devices would still be on if the power goes out.

Johnson, one of the radio league’s 166,000 members, said he worries interference will only become a bigger inconvenience in years to come in Maine, which recently legalized growing up to six flowering marijuana plants, 12 immature plants and unlimited seedlings.

When he recently heard suspicious noisy static, Johnson said, he drove up and down side streets with a spectrum analyzer hooked up to his laptop to determine the source, which turned out to be a licensed grower a mile away who said he had no idea he was causing a disturbance.

Read full article here.

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