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TN: Marijuana Growers Escalating Illegal Farming

Discussion in 'Marijuana News from The USA' started by RMJL, Sep 11, 2003.

  1. Daily News

    MARIJUANA GROWERS ESCALATING ILLEGAL FARMING
    by Leon Alligood, (Source:Tennessean)

    Tennessee
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    Plants seized this year up almost 22% from '02; rainfall meant ideal growing conditions

    For the third consecutive summer, the number of confiscated marijuana plants in Tennessee has increased, according to the Governor's Task Force on Marijuana Eradication.

    Apparently the wet summer has been good for the state's most valuable cash crop, which has an estimated street value of more than $600 million. Seizure of pot plants so far this summer increased to 591,601, nearly a 22% rise from 2002's tally of 485,751 plants.

    The task force still has several more weeks of operation before it disbands for winter.

    ''That's what we believe, that it's most likely due to the rainfall,'' said Special Agent in Charge Jay Barnes of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, a representative on the task force's operating committee.

    Tennessee's climate makes it an excellent location for growing the illegal plant.

    ''The same reason we grow good corn or soybean crops is the same reason we grow a lot of marijuana,'' Barnes said.

    Plus, there's lots of places where ''it can be grown in seclusion,'' he said.

    That's why the task force's most potent attack is from the air. Using Tennessee National Guard helicopters, officers are lowered into hollows that aren't practical to access on the ground. Other agency partners on the task force include the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

    Although the number of confiscated plants in 2003 will not likely reach the all-time record of 1,116,743 plants confiscated in 1997, Barnes says this year's action is an indication marijuana production continues to proliferate.

    The profit can be lucrative for the home-grown stuff, he said.

    ''In New York and other places, domestically grown or home-grown marijuana of good quality can go upwards of $2,000 a pound. They pay more for the higher-quality stuff,'' Barnes noted.

    In Fentress County, where agents have confiscated 82,000-plus plants this summer, Sheriff's Detective Gary Ledbetter said he believed the eradication effort was hampering production.

    ''But we're also missing a lot of it because it's so rural up here that they can grow a patch of it anywhere,'' Ledbetter acknowledged.

    ''A lot of times they grow it on someone else's land or in the park ( Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area ), part of which is in our county. You're pretty much home free unless you get caught in the patch, which is not very likely.''

    Another Middle Tennessee hot spot this summer is Wayne County, where more than 68,000 marijuana plants have been destroyed.

    ''The growers are so productive now. Now they'll plant 10 or 11'' different patches, ''hoping that we won't find one of them. They make their profit off that one patch,'' said Sheriff Carl Skelton.

    Few pot growers, who often take extraordinary precautions, are arrested in their pot patches. A more likely scenario is that investigators use the raids to build up a case for a later arrest, perhaps months after the summer plant seizures.

    ''We have a lot of individuals that are subjects of an investigation. Let's say there are over 60 investigations so far,'' Barnes said.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk
    Pubdate: Fri, 05 Sep 2003
    Source: Tennessean, The (TN)
    Copyright: 2003 The Tennessean
    Contact: letters@tennessean.com
    Website: http://www.tennessean.com/
    Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/447
    Author: Leon Alligood
     

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