It’s A Jungle Out There: Booby Trapped Marijuana Plots

Sure, you hear the argument nearly every day that pot is harmless. It just makes you laugh and eat a lot. Well, that may be true on the consumer’s end, but not so much for the police officers assigned to marijuana eradication duties. I know, I know, many of you will argue that cops should leave pot growers alone. Maybe so. That’s not for me to decide. However, until the stuff is legalized, the boys in blue have a job to do. You see, they don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing which laws they should enforce.

So, each year, especially during the outdoor growing seasons, police officers begin the dangerous task of locating marijuana plants. This job is not a simple walk through the woods skipping merrily along until they happen upon a grouping of “potted” plants. Not at all. Many marijuana growers booby trap their plots (Please don’t confuse these plot traps with the kind used by Stephen King and Jeffery Deaver) to prevent detection by authorities, and against the thieves who travel around the countryside stealing other people’s plants.

Officers must be on the alert for several types of booby traps. Trip wires connected to various devices, much like those soldiers faced during the Vietnam War, are used to protect growing operations. Marijuana growers use the trip wires in various ways, from connecting them to simple and harmless alarm systems made from car batteries and horns, to more deadly devices such as attaching the lines to loaded shotguns, sharpened bamboo stakes, and even explosive devices.

Officers must also be vigilant for boards with large nails driven through them. Criminals make these boards and then cover them with leaves and other natural forest debris, leaving them for someone to step on.

Even small plots, such as the one pictured below can be booby trapped. Growers have been known to tie fishing line to poisonous snakes, connecting the other end to a tree. The angry snakes are then forced to remain in the marijuana plot, which is extremely dangerous for anyone stepping into the area.

Devices such as the spike and rock filled contraption below, are hung from trees and connected to trip wires in the paths below. When someone contacts the trip wire, the device is released and swings down hitting the intruder with tremendous force.

Bear traps are often set and placed along paths leading to marijuana plots. Again, they’re covered with leaves and other natural debris.

Punji stick (stake) traps are often found in marijuana plots. Holes are dug and then punji sticks are arranged in the pit bottoms.

Aggressive dogs are often left to guard an owner’s plot.

Below is a photo of some items used for booby trapping  marijuana plots.

Hunters and hikers have stumbled into marijuana plots, and the results have sometimes been deadly. Some have contacted booby traps, and some have been shot by the growers themselves. Some marijuana growers have even turned to professional protection for their crops. In Austin, Texas, one grower hired machine-gun toting members of the Bandido motorcycle club to guard his crop.

So, as I said earlier, locating and eradicating marijuana plots is a very dangerous job. It’s certainly no walk in the park.

34 replies
  1. Rebekah
    Rebekah says:

    When my husband took over maintenance/facilities at his job, one of the first things he had to handle was a police helicopter landing in the parking lot telling him they spotted a marijuana forest in the woods behind the plant. He jumped right in to help police clear the plants away and keep the company’s name clean. And we had a good laugh about it later, it was so unexpected. But now I’m thinking that experience could have ended a lot worse. Thank goodness there were no booby traps. Thanks for the warning, Lee.

    By the way, is the early bird registration still open for the Writer’s Police Academy, or has that passed?

  2. John McFetridge
    John McFetridge says:

    Good post, thanks. You’re so right, as long as it’s illegal the job has to be done and it’s very dangerous. Here in Canada we’ve seen marijuana become one of our biggest industries and in addition to some large scale outdoor growing we now have a huge amount of grow houses in the suburbs – also booby trapped and very dangerous.

  3. Elena
    Elena says:

    It’s been my experience that people who break the law are missing some life skills such as the big C’s, consequences, common sense, and cost-benefit analysis. Jail is just a risk they accept. They find it very hard if not impossible to articulate an answer to the question ‘why?’.

    In the case of pot growers, who in my vicinity usually grew the stuff near or around their illegal still, the answer to your question would be to protect their property. Then they would nod their heads as if wondering if you might be simple. It’s a very different world.

  4. Sheila Connolly
    Sheila Connolly says:

    This certainly makes you think twice about taking a walk in the woods.

    But I’m curious. When someone stumbles onto a nasty device protecting a plot, damage will be done. But does that act as a deterrent to the police, or does it make them that much more eager to track down the person who planted the stuff? And what does that person expect and hope for from his boobytraps?

  5. martha-alderson
    martha-alderson says:

    Fun to see that comments are still coming in!
    Thanks for your kind words.
    Laundry, huh??? hmmmmmmmm

  6. Beth Morrow
    Beth Morrow says:


    Fabulous post, as always. Everything you write makes me itch to work on my fiction. Now if you could only inspire me to do laundry in the same way….


  7. BeckyLevine
    BeckyLevine says:


    Once again, you’ve said it so well. Your test is so interesting, I would have said I’m a character-driven writer, but I seem to know those early points about my character much better than the later one.

    More self-examination, here we come! 🙂

  8. martha-alderson
    martha-alderson says:

    Hi Lee,
    Hope you’re feeling better.

    Yup, East of Eden in Steinbeck country in September, we three will be there plus lots of other dynamic speakers, agents, publishers and workshop leaders.

    Anyone who is interested in learning about more writers’ conferences, writers’ events, plot tips, writers’ contests, and more, can sign-up for the free monthly eZine at:
    contact at

  9. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Sorry I haven’t been around today. I was making my way to Colorado Springs to the Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

    Great job, Martha.

    I believe you guys can catch one of Martha’s workshops in September at the East of Eden Writers Conference in Salinas, California. Right, Martha? I’ll also be there. So will Becky Levine.

  10. SweetieZ
    SweetieZ says:

    Wow ! This is a great day. Thank you Martha – Alderson. I am the newbe here. Reading about writing.

    10) Dream

    Lee, for an apprentice hopeful, thank you for allowing a fly on the wall inside.

    11) Learn

  11. martha-alderson
    martha-alderson says:

    PS — Well, that’s not entirely correct. There are lots of other finer feeling, but you know what I mean……. Right?

  12. martha-alderson
    martha-alderson says:

    Wilfred, the questions posed to you are great. Again, whatever it takes to keep us at the task of writing while deepening the story overall.

    There are so many ways into writing a story. The 10 point profile is designed to help primarily with plot (and by plot I mean how the dramatic action transforms the character and what that means overall. In other words, when a character is changed at depth by the dramatic action over time, the story becomes thematically significant.)

    In the middle of The MIddle, where most writers bog down, the character traits that can help create conflict, tension, and suspense, and keep the stakes continually rising are: the character’s flaws, fears, hatred or prejudices. Put your character in a situation that exacerbates their flaws, fears and prejudices, and sparks will fly……

  13. J Carson Black
    J Carson Black says:

    Thanks, Martha, for that illuminating test, and what it can mean to my own plot. Usually my plot comes together later down the line, and I never want to see too far beyond the headlights. This time I felt the need to write the outline earlier (to go with a partial), and it was a train wreck. I’d keep trying and I’d keep failing. I’m definitely the character-based type of writer. But you showed me there does need to be a balance, and I think your questions have already helped me bridge the gap. They are just the right questions to ask, and it took a little extra to get the first three. When I did, I was surprised–it took a lot of cutting away of the deadwood to get to the real source.

    I think this test and the questions it raised can make the difference in putting together an integrated story, sooner.

    Thank you!

  14. martha-alderson
    martha-alderson says:

    Thanks for your kind words, Josephine.

    Balance — isn’t that what we all struggle with — finding the right balance between “going with the flow” and creating a pleasing structure that allows for the reader to sink into “the dream”? Finding the right balance between the analytical and the intuitive? Between creating action that excites and characters with which the reader can emotionally connect.

    But, heck, do whatever it takes to keep you showing up for your writing.

    There’s more about plotters and those who write by the seat of their pants on my blog.

  15. Josephine Damian
    Josephine Damian says:

    Brilliant explanation of the plotters vs. pantsters approach to writing. Several bloggers recently talked about how “organic” their writing process was – that they go with the flow where ever the character (and not the plot) takes them, and also said that oft times they get lost down a blind alley or write themselves into a corner.

    My reply? Outline! Works for me! Their reply: How sad, Josie. They feel sorry for me because I chose a more plot driven, structured approach! They don’t think I have ny fun writing because I outline. Well. But I do realize that I need to put more emphasis on character.

    I’ll check out FOLLY and your blog, DVD and website as well.

    Matha, thanks for posting, and Lee, thank you for introducing your readers to Martha.

  16. martha-alderson
    martha-alderson says:

    Hi Joyce,

    Lucky you!

    Yup! Since series takes place over time, some of the character development will come from maturation. Yet, the transformative nature of the dramatic action that takes place in each book of the series is key.

    Sounds like you’re on track. Plan for the series, but don’t hold back on the first book, in hopes of saving some of the “good stuff” for the next. You want the first one to really pop, or there won’t be a next one.

    Great good luck.

  17. martha-alderson
    martha-alderson says:

    Hi Peg H,

    Sounds like you’ve worked out an effective strategy to help you over the wall. Physical activity helps many of us. Movement relieves the tension and distracts the critic in our heads long enough for the muse to slip in…….. or something like that,,,,,,

    The first DVD in the set is available now. The complete package should be available mid-May.

    Thanks for asking.

  18. Annette Dashofy
    Annette Dashofy says:

    Martha, I’ve bookmarked both your website and blog for future browsing. This is stuff that I already knew (or should have), but constantly need reminded of. Thanks.

  19. Wilfred Bereswill
    Wilfred Bereswill says:

    Actually, Martha, I stumbled onto your website a little while ago and took your test, although I didn’t need to. Being an Engineer by degree and 25 years in the field, I know where I stand. However, your test verified what I already knew.

    I’ve worked hard on characterization and then, when I had a tag line writer help me with my back jacket copy, she asked me questions about my protagonist that I never thought about. Here are the questions:

    What is the arc of her “hero’s journey” story — what internal demons is she facing as she confronts these external terrorists?

    Who’s on her side, and who’s going to take her by surprise?

    What are her greatest strengths and weaknesses?

    What does she personally stand to lose?

    And what’s at stake in the larger picture — what does the world stand to lose if she doesn’t succeed?

    Some of these I could spout right off. The other made me do some soul searching.

  20. Joyce Tremel
    Joyce Tremel says:

    Great post! I was able to answer most of the ten pretty easily, but I’m wondering if that’s just because I know my protagonist so well. I’ve been writing a series (well, I hope it’s going to be a series!) so character development is crucial, not only for each book, but in the overall series arc. Is that correct?

  21. Peg H
    Peg H says:

    That really sounded dumb.
    I mean the new plot workshops for mystery writers DVD’s, when will they actually be out? I see that they are available at preorder price on your site.

  22. Peg H
    Peg H says:

    I’m a character driven writer, no wonder I often hit a brick wall and need to step back for a bit. (I tell my husband I need to let the characters breathe for a few days.) Yes, I can see the whole story, and yes, I do have trouble putting it into words. When that happens I go work in my garden, play with the dogs, gaze into my pond, or go fishing and the words soon follow.

    Thank you for a great post! And when will these DVDs be available? 😀

  23. ljsellers
    ljsellers says:

    Thanks for a great post. I’m plot-driven writer, but your 10-point test reminded me that my characters need work too. What a great career you’ve crafted for yourself. If you ever need an assistant…

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