10/28/05 — Growth, flights cut into local marijuana production

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Growth, flights cut into local marijuana production

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on October 28, 2005 1:49 PM

Wayne County's growing population and the subsequent shrinking of open spaces have put a crimp on marijuana production.

"Our population makes it difficult for growing marijuana," Sheriff Carey Winders said Thursday.

At the same time, Winders said, hunters are finding fewer open spaces, too. "In the isolated areas we do have, there are many hunters out there," the sheriff said.

Wayne County's population has mushroomed to about 114,000, about double that of neighboring Duplin and Sampson counties, which are geographically much larger.

Wayne County has about 555 square miles. Winders noted that Duplin has 51,000 people in 815 square miles and Sampson has 60,000 people in 963 square miles.

Another factor in the reduction of marijuana fields has been the operation of the sheriff's helicopter, the Raven, for six years.

"Knowing that we have the helicopter and that we are out looking has deterred" marijuana production, the sheriff said. "We're fortunate in that respect."

Winders said his officers have found very little this year during their flights. They did fly a few days ago as the growing season was coming to an end.

The sheriff said numerous other aircraft are flying over Wayne County, perhaps scaring away marijuana producers. Some planes come from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and others come from the Goldsboro-Wayne Municipal Airport. He said not only does the Raven fly over the county, but so do two or three other helicopters.

A big marijuana field was found recently near Stantonsburg in Wilson County near the Greene County line. The discovery reduced the supply for local dealers.

Winders said most of the marijuana in Wayne County now comes from Mexico, but added that the supply also has been reduced.

A two-year investigation recently led to the arrest and conviction of 28 people in connection with a drug cartel that stretched from Wayne County to central Mexico.