Massive pot harvest continues

photos by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency
photos by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency
Posted Sept. 24, 2009, at 9:58 p.m.

TOWNSHIP 37, Maine — More than 60 law enforcement officers continued Thursday to harvest massive, high-quality marijuana plants at a remote location in Washington County. Not only is the seizure the largest in Maine’s history, the multimillion-dollar operation was the first of its kind seen in the state, according to drug enforcement officials.

The pot plantation was discovered Tuesday when a law enforcement plane scoured the area after Maine State Police Troop J received a tip on its Web site.

Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Director Roy McKinney, who was on site Thursday, said the size, scope and detail of the farming operation was quite surprising.

“We have never seen this type of operation in Maine before,” he said.

No one had been arrested as of Thursday and McKinney would not identify who owns the land.

He confirmed that it was a plantation or farm, where caretakers of the crop lived 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “These are the types of operations we see on the West Coast. In Maine, when marijuana is grown in remote locations, someone usually hikes in and checks it periodically. These growers were living right here.”

The marijuana was so well cultivated, he said, that the value of the bud, the most prized part of the plant, is higher than normal.

“This was a very sophisticated operation,” McKinney said. “There was a tremendous amount of effort and energy put into this, including extensive pruning to develop the buds. This operation was given a lot of thought.”

He said MDEA uses $2,000 per plant as the rule of thumb for street value, but since these plants’ buds are so developed, McKinney said they would likely be worth $3,000 or more each. More than $1.5 million worth of plants — 500 — were harvested Wednesday by law enforcement.

Several thousand more plants — about $9 million worth — were harvested by midafternoon Thursday. A final count will not be available until all the plants are removed, likely late Friday.

When the plane discovered the farm Tuesday, the growers on site apparently began burning several of what McKinney described as bunkhouses. By the time law enforcement on the ground arrived at the farm, no one was found.

McKinney said two additional buildings were discovered Thursday.

The site, in Township 37, is about 10 miles off Route 9 in Wesley, covering several square miles of woods and swamps. The Salvation Army has set up their canteen on site to feed the law enforcement contingent, which McKinney said was both appreciated and invaluable.

In addition to Maine and federal DEA agents, officers at the site come from the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Maine State Police, Maine Game Wardens, Maine Forest Service, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, and U.S. Border Patrol.

McKinney said teams of officers are working in very difficult terrain, harvesting the pot in bundles of 100 and walking through a boggy, swampy area to an access road where the plants are secured.

One garden is 100 yards from the access road while the second garden is more than 500 yards away. “This is not easy terrain,” he said.

McKinney said that Wednesday was devoted to the crime scene and securing and seeking evidence, while Thursday’s action shifted to eradication of the plants.

Officers will continue working on site today and once the harvest is completed, McKinney said the plants will be destroyed on site.

sunrisecounty@bangordailynews.net

255-0618

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