Fighting Appalachia's Top Cash Crop, Marijuana

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Feb 28, 2001.

  1. By Francis X. Clines
    Source: New York Times

    Winter is easing in the rolling hills and hamlet hollows, and all the prespring indications are that marijuana will have another bumper year and remain this state's No. 1 cash crop, just as it continues prime in West Virginia and Tennessee.
    "Bigger than tobacco," noted Roy E. Sturgill, the director of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, the only one of the nation's 31 federal antidrug regions focused on marijuana.

    The prodigious, high-octane marijuana crop is a startling fact of modern life to outsiders passing through the 65 Appalachian counties in the target area, a rugged, fruitful swath of some beautiful parts of Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee. Marijuana is ubiquitous, growing well- tended in deep-woods patches and casually disguised, too, in the expanse of a farmer's cornfield and a resident's basement.

    The annual crop comes in at an estimated $4-billion-plus yield of high- grade produce that flows illicitly to markets of the Northeast willing to pay some of the nation's highest street prices. (This yield is beyond the $1.4 billion worth tracked and eradicated by authorities last year, a haul that, even when broken down in the three states, still tops any of their legal cash crops.)

    "It's kind of like the old moonshine days with neighbors making a living at it," said Sgt. Ronnie Ray, a marijuana suppression officer with the Kentucky State Police here at Bluegrass Station. "And we're kind of like the new revenuers."

    Sergeant Ray, his commander, Lt. Donald J. Gill, and Detective Mark Moore, their specialist in the increasingly popular art of indoor marijuana growing, discussed the agronomics of green lightning with gentle drawls and savvy experience.

    "I'd say we're more or less holding the line right now," Lieutenant Gill warily estimated, pleased that his unit recently succeeded in a drug raid of more than 1,000 plants being grown indoors, the toughest turf of all to track the growers.

    "Still," Sergeant Ray concedes, "we're probably taking very little of all that's out there."

    Detective Moore, working a beat in which the growers have new antidetection wrinkles every season, said of the marijuana, "Pound for pound, it's the big one."

    With all the rote anticipation of the Farmer's Almanac, the 105 full-time antimarijuana officers of the Appalachia target area are preparing for the spring planting. They will be joined by 595 seasonal officers from federal, state and local forces charged with tracking the "holler dopers." For the most part, these are ordinary denizens who often, but not always, are from the more impoverished old mining hamlets.

    "Everybody seems to know somebody who grows it, sells it, smokes it," says Sergeant Ray. "It's the dirty little secret of Kentucky."

    Spotters will go out by helicopter in the spring to map hundreds of suspected crops in mountain leas. Antimarijuana harvesters will descend by rappelling ropes to the most remote farms hidden in wild places like the Daniel Boone National Forest. More than 200,000 marijuana plants, each worth about $1,000 in retail produce, are seized each year in the sprawling beauty of the Boone forest.

    Detective Moore, meanwhile, finds all too few of the citizen complaints he relies upon in tracking the indoor planters year-round. They use hydroponics, growing lamps and scientific pruning techniques to produce a crop every 89 days in basements, silos, closets and even underground bunkers, replete with booby traps and remote video monitoring.

    Despite police crackdowns, the growers, cyclical as Ecclesiastes, will soon be hiking or heading by all- terrain vehicles for the choice sun- drenched remote patches of Appalachia, where the rich soil and good farming weather grow marijuana plants 18 feet high. Confiscation has increased fivefold over the last decade but the region still produces an estimated two-fifths of the nation's marijuana crop.

    In busier hollows, criminal organizations have formed from loose confederations of family units, according to federal trackers. Corruption, in turn, has compromised at least a half-dozen county sheriff operations since marijuana took root as big business in the 1980's.

    "There are people afraid to go out in the fall on their own land," Sergeant Ray noted, explaining that there are brazen interlopers who try to foil property confiscation laws by surreptitiously using tracts of other people's land. "There's a lot of good people in this state dead set against marijuana," the sergeant emphasized, while noting that the old backwoods peer pressure of the moonshining days can mitigate against citizen complaints.

    "Some counties are pretty close- knit and there seems to be an acceptance," Mr. Sturgill agrees. More manpower is needed, he emphasized, if the Appalachia problem is to be uprooted. More technology, too, like thermal imaging detectors that can help find indoor marijuana but are under constitutional challenge as illegal search devices.

    Detective Moore advises the police to be fearless even in their own communities. "I took down a guy where I live who was growing 400 plants in his garage," he related, still angry at his neighbor's cheekiness. "Local pressure got pretty tough, with folks thinking like this guy was family."

    But the police stress that the problem clearly exists well beyond Kentucky in neighboring states and is prompted by prime growing conditions and market demand up north more than by the local tolerance.

    "Heck, I remember being in high school in 1969 and witnessing the school's first pot arrest for possession," Sergeant Ray recalls. That was before modern highways made distant markets accessible to the potent produce of Appalachia. "Back then, we thought that pot arrest was the end of the world," he said, smiling as the marijuana suppression unit prepares for another spring planting.

    Complete Title: Kentucky Journal: Fighting Appalachia's Top Cash Crop, Marijuana

    Source: New York Times (NY)
    Author: Francis X. Clines
    Published: February 28, 2001
    Copyright: 2001 The New York Times Company
    Address: 229 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036
    Fax: (212) 556-3622
  2. I recall very vividly a scene I was in ,in a small town in South Carolina. I'll try to be brief. About 8 or so years ago I was working as electrician/foreman for a medium sized traveling carnival.We had just started recruiting some local folks to help in setting up the rides . A good friend of mine asked the 15 or so guys if they knew of any good hookups in the area. That was all it took. Every single one of them pulled out a bag ! We started sampling joints ,pipes ,even a bong turned up. Narrowing the choices to 4 ,we started to "haggle" the price and availability. To our amasement the best price turned out to be from this toothless old fellow @ $160 a pound. We asked him how much we could buy and he said ,
    "I have (3) 55 gallon drums full ,but I want to keep a little for my friends and stuff"
    Needless to say we all made adequate purchases to last the season ! This is just one example of a type of encounter that repeated itself several times that year ,that I personally was part of. Had someone told me about it ,I probably would not have believed it.


    [ February 28, 2001: Message edited by: roach ]
    • Like Like x 1
  3. damb, I wish the grow scene was like that on the west coast. It almost gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling thinking about old toothless rural simple folk growing in appalacia. We've got these mexican cartel pieces of shit here on the west coast with guns who don't give a fuck about the land where they plant their crops. we need more small time guerrila growers on the west coast.
  4. And ofcourse the police need More men, more technology? People need to see the self interest that police and narcotics agents have in attacking this problem. And remember that they will be paying for this.

    Take Cannabis out and police departments will be cut in half, a huge chunk of funding is given to them for fighting cannabis. It's the nightmare for law enforcement.
  5. Any one else feel sick when they see those videos of DEA agents pulling up and killing innocent ganja? Its like genocide of innocent little green people.
  6. I'm from WV and I would have to guess that a large portion of the cannabis they are talking about in this article is schwag.
  7. Anyone else think the plants they are finding are actually just you know... decoys to keep them searching through the forests? Its a good idea if yar ask me.

  8. I live right in it...Near the Daniel boone national forest in Eastern Ky. :cool:
  9. Yea when it show's Helicopters pulling it away, I feel like it's free Willy or something.
  10. if you don't mind me askin where at?

    My uncle grows down there. Rather lookin forward to the next trip down there to visit. This girl wants to try his goods(had this same strain for over 20 yrs!)
  11. as I read I can rest easy knowing what a great community produced my Kentucky dank I have upstairs. :smoking:
  12. :D

    I recently moved from rural Kentucky to Indiana. It is so easy to grow up in the mountains. You just follow a path and then veer off a couple of miles.

  13. Just outside Corbin, why?

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