The size of a crop of marijuana plants seized Monday and other factors indicate the probable involvement of an organized group of out-of-county growers, Marion County Sheriff Rob Craft said Tuesday.
“This is not a local operator in our opinion,” he said.
County, Peabody, Marion, and Florence law enforcement officers seized at least 2,000 plants reported to police by a hunter Monday.
“The man realized what he was seeing and contacted our department,” Craft said Monday. “We came down to look it over and then contacted Peabody, Florence, and Marion to get additional manpower. We kept discovering small pockets of marijuana (as we searched the area). It was a well-tended operation.”
A search of the area revealed nobody was there. No arrests have been made in the case.
The plants all were green and healthy, ranging in size from about 2 to 7 feet tall. Officials estimated the street value of the plants would range between $1 million and $2 million.
The marijuana plants were tied in thick bundles and almost looked like bright green Christmas trees leaning against the outside wall of a grocery store in December. More were piled nearly knee-deep on the floor Monday night in the garage at Peabody Police Department.
Officials saved a representative sample from each of the plots as evidence, and the remainder of the plants were destroyed late Monday night.
“It takes a lot of diesel fuel to burn 2,000 plants,” Craft said.
The marijuana was probably two to four weeks away from maturity, he said. It was growing in several plots in a heavily wooded rural area several miles outside of Peabody. He said officers were expanding the search area Tuesday morning to be certain they got all of the illegal plants.
“There was an encampment in the area,” Craft said.
The very rough encampment was camouflaged and included hammocks, which contributed to the suspicion the operators are not residents of Marion County. Big marijuana busts like this are becoming more prevalent in Kansas because of the activity of organizations that run operations this size, Craft said.
“Kansas has seen a big increase in this type,” he said.
Greenwood County officials destroyed approximately 3,000 marijuana plants discovered in July. And one of the counties adjacent to Marion County was conducting a sting of its own Tuesday morning of similar size, Craft said. Such operations are usually in very secluded areas, away from cities.
If anybody discovers such a plot of marijuana, they should immediately leave the area and call 911. Large-scale marijuana growers often arm themselves to protect their investments, Craft said.