Cracking Down on Pot Farms as Growing Season Begins

By: Nicole Morten Email
By: Nicole Morten Email

Good rains in the spring and early summer have helped some illegal farming operations flourish...for a while. Marijuana plants are doing quite well, so well that some of the farms are getting spotted easier.

Last week police uncovered the largest pot farm in East Texas history. And the week before that, the Drug Enforcement Administration with the help of a helicopter, Washington County Sheriff's officials, as well as local DPS agents, discovered more than 3,000 pot plants growing between Navasota and Brenham.

It's harvest season for many farmers in the Brazos Valley -- but for some other farmers harvesting a much different and lucrative kind of crop -- the season is just beginning.

"The best possible place to do these things is out in the country where you don't get a lot of traffic; whether it be foot traffic, ground traffic or aeriel traffic," said Greg Thrash, resident agent in charge of the DEA's Austin office. "You have to have a water source or a very good year of rain and obviously you're going to need concealment.”

Marijuana farms are popping up in many rural parts of the Brazos Valley.

“You pick a secluded area, something that's not accessible that you can't see from the roadway, and you start growing,” said Washington County Narcotics Investigator Kyle Kokemoor. "It's one of those pieces of property that nobody goes to and so that becomes a perfect opportunity for people that find it, so called squatters, to grow their operation; that way if we do show up, they can run and have no ties to the property."

Much like the case in Washington County, residents living on Husemann Road had no idea more that more than a million dollars of marijuana was growing on a vacant lot.

"When law enforcement did enter the property and do a search of the property we did find a very primitive camp where those tending to the marijuana fields had been living there since April,” said Thrash.

Two men were arrested; one Washington County residents while the other, authorities say, is an illegal immigrant with ties to California. In the last year, seven pot farms have been raided by local authorities where thousands of fully grown marijuana plants and weapons have been seized.

While there are a number of reasons these so-called "grow your own" operations are popping up more frequently; the DEA says individuals behind the trade are reacting to police raids by moving the outdoor operations inside.

“When you have grow-operations indoors, they can just grow year around and they can actually increase the potency of the product,” said Thrash.

With harvest season beginning in September, investigators expect to see more illegal activity – and hope the season brings more arrests. The two people arrested in the Washington County pot bust two weeks ago have been charged in federal court.

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