Pubdate: Mon, 10 Jul 2006
Source: Times and Democrat, The (SC)
Copyright: 2006, The Times and Democrat
Author: Thomas Brown, T&D Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Officers Say Seizures Down As Fewer People Report Plants

Local law enforcement officials know marijuana is being grown in the 
Orangeburg area, and are concerned that they are getting fewer tips 
reporting the plants.

Lt. Todd Williams of the Selective Enforcement Division of the 
Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office said information on marijuana 
growth has been diminishing for some time.

"We started noticing about two years ago that we were not getting as 
many tips on marijuana grows," Williams said. "Last year this time, 
we had confiscated more than 100 plants. This year, we're just under 
50. We know that marijuana is still being grown in the area, but our 
problem is the indoor growers."

Williams said law enforcement depends solely on informants to report 
the indoor growers. He said officials will get tips from utility 
companies when they notice a sudden spike in a customer's electricity use.

"When we get that information, we get suspicious because indoor 
growers have to use growth lamps all the time when they're growing 
marijuana indoors," Williams said. "That's why the utility company 
sees the spike in electricity. Growth lamps use a lot of electricity."

Williams said he has found marijuana growing in fields, in gardens, 
in pots outside and some growers will even use other people's 
property for the crop.

"And they love to grow it in state parks," Williams said. "But when 
they grow it outdoors, it's easy to spot because marijuana has to 
have sunlight. So the growers have to clear any other plants from 
around it that might block the sun. We go on marijuana eradication 
flights with the State Law Enforcement Division and occasionally we 
fly with the RAID (Retaliation Against Illegal Drugs) Team from the 
National Guard."

The marijuana confiscated in the Orangeburg area is generally 
commercial grade, Williams said. It has tetrahydrocannabinol level of 
above six percent and the plants are usually five to eight feet tall. 
The active ingredient in marijuana is THC and the higher the 
percentage, the more potent the effect.

"THC is a schedule I drug," Williams said. "That means that it has no 
acceptable medical use in this state and has a high potential for abuse.

"We generally find about a dozen plants here and there. We haven't 
found a large grow in a long time. Last year, we found 200 plants in 
one grow. That was a big find. When we find an outdoor grow, we 
collect the plants and get Global Positioning System coordinates on 
the grow to try to find out who planted them."

Williams said one marijuana plant can yield up to a pound of salable 
product and one pound of marijuana has a street value ranging between 
$500 and $1,000. He said it is still one of the most accessible street drugs.

Growing marijuana is called manufacturing marijuana and is classified 
as a felony. On the first offense, a grower can get up to five years 
in prison. The second offense carries a penalty of up to 10 years and 
the third carries a mandatory sentence of five to twenty years.

"Growing even one plant is a felony," Williams said. "And because of 
the nature of the business, we do depend heavily on tips from 
informants. We want people to understand that marijuana is a 
dangerous drug. Most heavy drug users started out using marijuana. 
That alone makes it dangerous.

Williams said the anonymity of informants is protected. And he urges 
anyone having any knowledge of someone growing marijuana to call 
either the Sheriff's Office at 803-531-4647 or CrimeStoppers at 1-888-832-7462.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman