07/26/14 — Uprooted -- Lawmen cut down 100-plus pot plants

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Uprooted -- Lawmen cut down 100-plus pot plants

By Ethan Smith
Published in News on July 26, 2014 11:46 PM

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Doug Honeycutt takes a photo of the marijuana plants found in a \nwooded area off of U.S. 70 East just west of its intersection with \nN.C. 111 Friday morning. Officers with the Wayne County Sheriff’s \nDepartment have been monitoring the area for three months.

Behind a mass of cornfields tucked off Highway 70, the Wayne County Sheriff's Office made an unexpected find.

Two plots of marijuana -- plants with a street value in the hundreds of thousands -- were growing tall.

So they watched the site -- hoping they would find the people responsible for cultivating the illegal crop.

And Friday, they uprooted 105 marijuana plants just before buds could form.

"We gave it as much time as we could," said Travis Sparks, a member of the Sheriff's office ACE team. "We wanted to get it before it hit the streets."

And had it ended up on the drug market, it could have brought the seller some $262,500.

Marijuana plants are useless until buds are formed, as the buds are harvested and dried out before being sold for consumption. Nine male plants had already been removed from the lots by the time the Sheriff's office seized the plants Friday morning.

Removing the male plants from the batch causes the female plants to produce more THC, which is what gets you high, Sparks said.

The lots were planted deep in the woods, concealed from road view, but were found by the Sheriff's Office helicopter. The Sheriff's Office didn't know who the grow operation belonged to, but had been watching it for three months.

"It's possible we would've found out whose it was if it hadn't been for the amounts of rain we've gotten," said Doug Honeycutt, another member of the ACE team.

And Jeremy Hooker said the size of the operation indicated that the marijuana was being grown to be sold, not for personal consumption.

"This is a restricted air space due to the base, but we can fly here," Hooker said. "I'm not sure if they took that into account."

Each officer on the scene said they have had multiple busts in this location in previous years, but marijuana is still being grown here. The plots discovered by the ACE team were located between a quarter- and a half-mile apart from each other. One lot contained 36 plants, while the other contained 69 plants.

Each plant is valued at $2,500 once it reaches maturity.