The more than 80 marijuana plants discovered growing in a wooded area of McDuffie County last week carried an estimated street value of nearly $100,000, local authorities say.
"This is the biggest find of marijuana that we've had in this county in several years," McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall said. "It's quite a bit of it. I'm glad these plants are never going to get a chance to make onto the streets."
Sheriff Marshall said he had received information that the illegal drug plants were growing in a wooded off Howell Young Road six or seven days before a railroad employee discovered them Aug. 28.
"We had planned to keep the area under surveillance in hopes of making some arrests," Sheriff Marshall said. "But when they were discovered by someone else, I felt it best to go ahead and have the marijuana pulled up and destroyed right away."
Dave Heron, a train master with CSX Transportation, notified local authorities after seeing the marijuana plants growing near the railroad tracks about 12:30 p.m.
"I knew right away what it was and I called authorities," Mr. Heron said, noting he spotted them from a train.
The 81 marijuana plants - some of which were 11 feet tall - were found growing in three different patches, Thomson Police Department Investigator Lt. Scott Whittle said. Some of the plants found in a third patch had not grown to maturity. Growers still were tending them with potting soil.
Sheriff Marshall called in Georgia Bureau of Investigation Region 7 Crime Scene Specialist Steven Foster to photograph the scene and to collect evidence. Some of the evidence included bags of potting soil and shovels, authorities said.
Dozens of the marijuana plants had just about reached maturity stage and were about ready to be cultivated, Lt. Whittle said. The plants, valued at $1,200 apiece, carried a total street value of $97,200.
Several City of Thomson employees assisted authorities in loading the plants onto a CSX pickup truck. The plants were immediately taken to the city incinerator where they were burned.
Anyone with information about the marijuana plants should contact the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department at 706-595-2040.