State Police destroy nearly 300 marijuana plants in farmers' fields
POSTED: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - 2:00am
UPDATED: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - 2:04am
Scott County, IN (WXIN) — Indiana State Police are stopping Indiana's growing pot problem before it hits the streets.
Only FOX59's cameras were there with state patrol, Civil Air Patrol and the Indiana National Guard executed a major crackdown on marijuana plants.
Police said this is a prime time for pot growers and dealers to start doing business, so authorities are going straight to the source--chopping the plants in the fields before they get in people's hands.
"You can smoke a joint every minute of every day and not smoke 50 marijuana plants worth of dope. These people are growing it to sell it," said Trooper Mike Bennett, an Eradication Coordinator for Indiana State Police. "The only rule on marijuana is there are no rules. Just when you don't think somebody is not going grow it there, you'll see it growing there."
On Tuesday, FOX59 followed Bennett's team to Scott County, where nearly 300 plants were reported growing in a farmer's crop. The trek through acres of corn is one of many outdoor drug busts that started in May. Bennett and his team switch gears to indoor busts after October.
His team traded in their uniforms for camo and held machetes instead of guns. With the help from farmers, GPS and their own spotters in the skies, they narrowed down a trail.
Surrounded by rows and rows of corn, Bennett said finding these plants is a challenge for even growers themselves. At times, they use their own coordinates or plant near natural landmarks to make it easier to track.
"They'll just cut these corn stalks in and let the sunlight come in," said Bennett.
Marijuana growers target 10-foot corn stalks because they are the perfect cover crop. However, for these experts, they said if it's not the smell, it is marijuana's distinct green color that gives it away.
"This stuff was obviously planted here by somebody," Bennett said. "Plants in the wild don't grow with potting soil and fertilizer around it. Each plant we take off is $1,000 that we're taking away from these people."
The team calls this operation a success. In five counties, the team gathered about 300 plants worth $300,000. Police said they let the plants dry out for about a week before burning them. His team said as long as they keep plants from reaching people, they'll keep fighting until the first frost.
"It's a gateway drug, very few people just start off smoking cocaine," he said.
Under Indiana law, it is a misdemeanor to possess 30 grams or less of marijuana. For more than 30 grams, it's a felony and three years prison time.
Selling or cultivating less than 30 grams of pot is a misdemeanor with a one-year sentence. For 30 grams to 10 pounds, jail time can range from six months to three years. More than 10 pounds or selling within 1,000 feet of a school can get you two to eight years behind bars.