WARRENTON, Ga. - It was described as one of the biggest finds of marijuana in years in Warren County last Thursday, as local, state and federal law enforcement authorities seized more than 7,000 plants with an estimated street value of more than $14 million.
Meanwhile, authorities seized only about 25 marijuana plants in McDuffie County. The illicit plants were found growing in a wooded area off Pylant Crossing Road, according to McDuffie County Sheriff's Department Maj. Ronnie Williamson.
"This was the biggest seizure of marijuana I've seen since I've been sheriff of Warren County," said Sheriff Joe Peebles during a press conference last Friday in Warrenton. "I'm glad they were able to find it from the air, because where it was located I doubt we would have ever found it considering we have such a small department."
No one was arrested at the scene of last week's find of marijuana in Warren County, but an on-going investigation is underway by local, state and federal authorities, according to Lt. Eddie Williams, commander of the Georgia Governor's Drug Task Force.
Special agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation processed two camps where marijuana plants were found growing off Georgia Highway 80 in the Cadley Community of Warren County, about a mile and a half north of Interstate 20, Lt. Williams and Sheriff Peebles said.
A variety of evidence was seized at the scene of the two camps, including cell telephone numbers, watering buckets and other items that were not disclosed, Sheriff Peebles said.
"We just have to see where all of this leads us," the sheriff said in terms of making any future arrests connected to the large seizure of marijuana plants last week. "Every one of the plants had been hoed, which let us know that someone had been taking care of these plants."
A total of 7,378 marijuana plants, ranging from five feet to seven feet tall, were discovered scattered over 30 to 40 acres of pine timberland, Sheriff Peebles said. The marijuana had a street value of more than $14 million, he added. The plants were growing in "very dense foliage," he said.
The tall pines - many of which were more than 15 feet tall - allowed for good cover from outsiders, but provided ample sunlight to grow the marijuana, Lt. Williams said.
The marijuana was spotted by a helicopter team between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. last Thursday. Lawmen in the helicopter quickly radioed to ground units, who within minutes had saturated the area. At one point, it was estimated that between 40 and 50 lawmen had converged on the area.
The law enforcement agencies included: the Governor's Drug Task Force, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Civil Air Patrol, Georgia National Guard, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, McDuffie-Warren County Forestry Service, Warren County Sheriff's Department, McDuffie County Sheriff's Department, Georgia Department of Public Safety Motor Vehicle Compliance, Georgia State Patrol (ground units and aviation division) and Georgia Department of Corrections.
Two years ago in nearby Taliaferro County near Crawfordville, 28,000 marijuana plants were seized by the Governor's Drug Task Force and other law enforcement agencies. Across the state this year, authorities have seized about 40,000 marijuana plants with a street value of about $80 million, Lt. Williams said.
Anyone with information about someone growing marijuana in Georgia can contact the Governor's Drug Task Force hotline telephone number at 1-888-259-5186.