A man working in a wooded remote area outside of Shepherd Tuesday evening discovered a major marijuana-growing operation that is believed to be linked to Mexican drug cartels.
The 1,460 plants, which were mature and ready for harvest, were located deep in the woods off of FM 222. The plants are considered to be a low-grade variety of marijuana but still have an estimated street value of $337,000, according to San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Bob Long.
“This is not the real high-value stuff like they grow indoors in hydroponics operations,” Long said.
This field is the third major marijuana-growing operation that has been located and destroyed in San Jacinto County this year.
The 5,000 plants combined taken from the three operations had an estimated street value of $1.1 million.
One field was near the one discovered Tuesday night off of FM 222; the other was near FM 3181 at FM 1725, close to New Waverly, Long said.
“They are all related to the drug cartels, we believe,” he said. “These are major operations. We are finding tents where they camp out and food items scattered everywhere.”
The operations include irrigation systems to keep the plants supplied with the water and nutrients needed. The growers start by clear-cutting swathes of ground, digging holes for water retention and pumping water from nearby springs or creeks.
According to Long, there is a great risk for the individuals who unwittingly stumble on the marijuana fields.
“Almost every time we go into the tents to look around, we find ammunition,” said Long, evidence that the growers are well-armed.
The San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office worked with the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Criminal Investigation Division in Conroe to eradicate the marijuana field Wednesday. The plants will be transported to a DPS location in Conroe to be destroyed.