HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Pot Cases Still Keeping Local Law Enforcement Agents Busy
Pubdate: Tue, 17 Aug 2004
Source: Times Daily (Florence, AL)
Copyright: 2004 Times Daily
Author: Bernie Delinski
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Popular)


The crop was going to be a banner one for those who had planted the
seed. Some of the plants were already stretching as high as 14 feet
from the ground, and harvest time was near.

They never got the chance to take their crop to market, though.

Instead, law enforcement agents arrived last week before the owners
returned to harvest their fields. They sliced down the plants, carried
them to a local grocery store and burned them before these farmers
could sample their crop or make a dime.

Those bright green plants were going to add to the totals of the number one
cash crop in Alabama: marijuana.

"They were everywhere," said Lauderdale County Sheriff Ronnie Willis.
"Some people were going to have a good harvest. But that has changed."

Count Willis among those who were surprised with the results of a
survey showing that Alabama has the lowest percentage of residents age
12 and over who use marijuana.

"It makes me wonder who they've been surveying," Willis said. "As much
as we find, the percentage seems low to me. I just wonder where they
come up with those numbers. Maybe there's a lot being grown here and
sent somewhere else to be sold."

Marijuana eradication efforts in Lauderdale last week netted more than
1,700 plants. It was the second sweep of the county this year.
Combined, more than 5,000 plants were destroyed.

"There's no telling how many we didn't find," Willis said. "They plant
50 plants here, 25 over there and 50 over there. There's no way we got
them all."

Curtis Burns, director of the Colbert County Drug Task Force, said he
hopes the statistics are true, but his experience and knowledge of
drug activity in the Shoals tells him something different.

He said the task force continued to make regular cases involving
marijuana, including possession, possession for resale and trafficking
cases. He said patrol officers, troopers and deputies often find
marijuana when they make traffic stops.

Burns said the task force has made three trafficking cases over the
past two weeks. He said there have been other cases recently where
agents knew a suspect was selling marijuana, but they were caught with
less than 2.2 pounds of marijuana in their possession at the time of
arrest. Trafficking charges must involve at least 2.2 pounds of the
illegal substance/.

One recent case in Muscle Shoals resulted in 3 pounds of marijuana
being confiscated along with $9,000 in cash, guns and drug

"Based on my work with the Sheffield Police Department and with the
task force, there definitely hasn't been a decrease in the amount of
marijuana we're seeing here," Burns said. "To work drugs on the
streets day after day, you can easily see that's not the case."

He said there are several dozens of street dealers of marijuana in
Colbert County alone. In some cases, he said, those selling marijuana
might be smoking as much as they're selling.

"It takes a lot of time and a lot of luck to make cases," Burns said.
"There's a lot of activity going on that we're aware of but have not
been able to make a case on at this point."

Burns estimates that less than 10 percent of the marijuana involved in
task force cases come is home grown. He believes most of the pot that
comes to the Shoals originates in Texas or Mexico and first passes
through larger cities in the Southeast and in other larger cities like

He said marijuana, crack cocaine and illegal prescription drugs
represent the largest percentage of cases made by his task force.

Myron Crunk, director of the Lauderdale County Drug Task Force, said
"prescription drugs are the worst thing going right now." He said
agents with his task force still have many cases involving marijuana,
but crack cocaine and prescription pills are equally as bad.

"(Marijuana) is widely used here and in Alabama," Crunk said. "I'm not
sure our problem is better or worse than any other state, but we're
making a lot of cases. There's definitely a lot of personal use going

Lauderdale task force agents confiscated nearly 6 pounds of marijuana
during one bust in 2003. He said the marijuana was packaged to sell.

Willis said marijuana is usually the first drug experimented with by
teenagers and young adults. In many cases, the experimentation is the
result of peer pressure.

"Unfortunately, we see too many kids go on to something harder," he
said. "It starts some kids off on a life of nothing but a lot of problems."

Managing editor Mike Goens contributed to this report.
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