TOWNSHIP 37, Maine — More than 50 law enforcement officers were in a remote area of Washington County Wednesday, harvesting marijuana plants in what could be the largest pot bust in Maine’s history.
The marijuana growing operation was discovered Tuesday, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland said Wednesday.
“There are thousands of plants,” he said.
Law enforcement officials are estimating there are between 5,000 and 8,000 plants. At roughly $2,000 street value per plant, the marijuana could be worth between $10 million and $16 million or more.
The marijuana was found after a tip was left recently on the state police Troop J Web site and forwarded to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.
McCausland said that a law enforcement plane flew over the site Tuesday and apparently “spooked the growers.” He said they began torching either the crop or nearby buildings or both.
Two of three buildings described as camps were burned to the ground and the third had minimal damage. About a half-acre of land was also burned.
Because of the remote location and the dry conditions, Maine Forest Service personnel and firefighters and equipment were dispatched from the Forest Protection Division Central Region Headquarters and air operations hangar at Old Town’s DeWitt Field airport to help pinpoint and put out the fire.
When officers on the ground arrived at the scene Tuesday afternoon, no one was found on the property.
No one has been arrested. The investigation into who was growing the marijuana and who owns the land continues, according to police.
Long before dawn Wednesday, investigators were headed to the remote location near Horse Lake in Washington County.
McCausland said the crop was found in Township 37, about 10 to 12 miles off Route 9 in a remote, extremely wooded and swampy area. He said there were several plots of marijuana over several square miles and two to three ways to get to the property, although some of the access routes were gated.
McCausland said none of the crop was booby-trapped and no officers were injured.
On scene Wednesday were law enforcement officers from the Maine State Police, Washington County Sheriff’s Department, Maine Warden Service, Maine Forestry Service, Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office and the U.S. Border Patrol.
The officers spent the entire day securing evidence and harvesting the crop, which McCausland described as “5 to 8 feet tall, fully mature plants, ready for harvest.” The Fire Marshal’s Office was conducting an arson investigation at the site of the fires.
McCausland said this is likely the biggest pot bust in the history of the state with the next largest being 4,200 plants discovered in Aroostook County in the 1990s.
He said investigators will remain on the scene until the remaining crop has been harvested. It could be destroyed on site or brought to another location, he said. Some of the details of the investigation are still sketchy, he said, because the site has no Internet service and limited cell phone service.