A total of 321 marijuana plants - including a huge stash in Wilkes County - recently were discovered by pilots in helicopters with the Georgia Governor's Drug Task Force. The marijuana seized had an estimated street value of $642,000.
In their flyover of McDuffie and Warren counties, authorities saw no marijuana growing in fields or wooded areas, Lt. Eddie Williams, commander of the Governor's Drug Task Force told The McDuffie Mirror.
Other counties searched by pilots and other law enforcement personnel during the flyovers by five helicopters on July 18-20, included: Richmond, Columbia, Burke, Jefferson, Glascock, Hancock, Taliaferro, Greene and Whitfield.
Lt. Williams said the discovery in Wilkes County was the single biggest find of the search.
In addition, lawmen also found 12 marijuana plants growing in Burke County and one plant in Whitfield, Lt. Williams said.
"We've found a lot less marijuana growing this year than we did last year," Lt. Williams said, noting that a lack of rain has affected the growing of marijuana. "The drought we've experienced across the state has actually been a blessing in those terms."
The state drug commander pointed out that another reason for the task force not having found the marijuana that they have found in past years is because marijuana growers are turning to more sophisticated ways.
"We're seeing more of a trend of indoor growing of marijuana across the state than what we've seen in past years," Lt. Williams said. "It just makes it a little more challenging."
Those turning to indoor operations are using an assortment of sophisticated lighting equipment to grow plants inside residential and other dwellings.
"We still catch them, sometimes," Lt. Williams said. "It just takes a lot more time."
One of the largest plots of marijuana found in East Central Georgia last year occurred near Crawfordville, he said. It was found as a result of a flyover, just like the recent one that was conducted.
The latest finds failed to produce any arrests. However, local authorities are assisting in those counties to uncover leads that might lead to future arrests associated with the growing of such illegal plants.
A person arrested for such a crime is usually charged with Violation of the Georgia Control Substances Act for possession of marijuana and possession with intent to traffic or distribute marijuana.
Statistical data released from Lt. Williams through July 24 revealed that members of the Georgia Governor's Drug Task Force have confiscated 4,994 marijuana plants, arrested 19 persons and seized 33 assorted weapons during operations statewide.
The Governor's Drug Task Force is federally funded through the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The state drug task force receives direct assistance from the Georgia Civil Air Patrol, Georgia State Patrol and manpower assistance from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Georgia Department of Corrections.
Herbert Craven, a helicopter pilot with the Georgia State Patrol Post, based out of the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport, participated in the recent marijuana flyover operation.