Most marijuana growers don’t take the time to plan the layout of their growing operations, according to Montgomery County Undersheriff Jeff Smith.
“Over the years, marijuana growers have split up their crops,” he said, “changed locations, scattered the plants.”
This practice, he explained, is designed to make plants harder to find.
Every year, Montgomery County law enforcement partners with a state police helicopter crew to harvest as much of the county’s illicit marijuana crop as possible.
As growers attempted to conceal their plants, Smith got used to finding the distinctive greenery hidden among undergrowth or even farmed crops like corn. That’s why he was so surprised Sept. 18 when deputies hiked up on a growing operation off of Logtown Road in the town of Root.
“Someone really put in the time,” he said.
Roughly 75 plants were ordered into neat sections and labeled with handwritten signs.
“You know how people label rows in their vegetable gardens?” he said. “It was like that.”
The signs read “Critical Mass,” Smith said. It is apparently a popular variety: Positive reviews of its flavor and growing patterns are posted online. An entry posted on Leafy.com, a website claiming to be the “world’s largest cannabis strain resource,” described “Critical Mass” as an extraordinary producer.
“Branches tend to snap from the weight of these dense buds,” the site claims.
Smith’s description echoes the opinion of Leafy.com.
The Sheriff’s Department measures marijuana plant quality by size and the number of buds. Buds, he said, are the most effective part of the plant.
“And these were just loaded with buds,” he said.
That quality can be attained only with seeds from a high-quality strain grown with a lot of attention.
Once the plants were harvested, Smith left his business card, “in case they wanted to complain that their plants went missing,” he said.
In all, the raid netted 450 plants from six locations, more than twice the number last year’s marijuana eradication operation brought in. By law enforcement estimates, that number of plants could put 200 pounds of dried marijuana on the market.
Smith could not comment on dollar value, as the cost may vary vastly from one dealer to another.
The increased high-quality yield could mean an increase in the county marijuana trade. Smith acknowledged that marijuana has long been a major issue, especially in the western part of the county, but said the success of this year’s eradication operation likely has more to do with quality information.
“We use community tips, drug investigations and the chopper,” he said.
The eyes in the air and accurate intelligence led deputies riding four-wheelers to more than the usual illegal foliage.
So far, Smith said there have been no arrests. Growers tend to hike into other people’s property, so it’s very hard to trace responsible parties.
“We’re always looking to hold people accountable,” he said, “but we look at this as taking 450 plants off the street.”
Those with information about marijuana cultivation are asked to contact the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department at 853-5500.