February 6, 2016

Marijuana growing operations found in dense timber areas

Tips have led to the discovery of three “large” plots of marijuana growing in southern Iowa and northwest Missouri. Kevin Winker, the director of the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, says all three sites were in a dense timber area.

“They’re picking those sites because they are remote and it lessens the liklihood that the plot will be discovered,” Winker says. “…They’ll clear out some of the timber. They’ll leave some of the trees standing there and then the trees that are left standing amongst the plot, they’ll take the branches off up to about 20 feet and leave the canopy, so it allows some sunlight in to help the growing process, but it helps shield the plot from the air.”

The Iowa National Guard has flown helicopter missions over sections of the state to help Iowa drug agents find plots of pot, but these three marijuana growing operations would have escaped notice if it hadn’t been for tips to law enforcement.

“Folks that had a reason to be on that property had noticed that it didn’t look right,” Winker says. “They contacted local law enforcement and we were able to investigate further.”

According to Winker, the other common tie for these three large plots of marijuana was the people who owned the land either lived out-of-state or didn’t spend much time on the property. 

“The other thing that we’re finding with these that are different than what we’ve found in past years is we’re finding encampments at these sites, which means the people who are cultivating these plants are actually staying on site,” Winker says, “which increases the possibility of confrontation for somebody who may have a legal right to be on that property.”

Winker advises property owners, farmers and hunters who encounter an operation like this to leave the area immediately to ensure their personal safety and call law enforcement immediately. This is harvest time for corn and soybeans, as well as for marijuana.

“The growing season occurs over the summer and because these folks are staying on site and cultivating them, they’re able to water them and fertilize them and care for the plants in a more efficient manner,” Winker says, “so it’s possible that there are harvests occuring more than once over the summer.”

One of the recently-found plots was in Taylor County, in southwest Iowa, where law enforcement officials found nearly 4000 marijuana plants under cultivation. The plants there cut down on September 14. Then, on September 25, another plot in south central Iowa’s Decatur County was discovered, with 571 marijuana plants. That same day, a plot of more than 1100 marijuana plants was discovered in rural Worth County, Missouri. The plants were cut down and saved for evidence.

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