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Nipping It In The Bud

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Trudging through the rain, dressed in military fatigues and thick black boots, an eight-man task force filed through a large cornfield Wednesday morning, stalking a notorious and elusive culprit known to be hiding out in the area.

What they were hunting was alive, but they knew it wouldn't run from them.

It was marijuana.

The task force, comprising officers from the State Police Marijuana Eradication Unit, the Mon mouth County Prosecutor's Office, the New Jersey National Guard and New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Conservation, had staked out the site in the Assunpink Creek Fish and Wildlife Management Area be forehand with the aid of a state police helicopter.

They found a rich bounty. Moving down each narrow corn row on the state farm property in Assun pink Park, which extends into Roosevelt and Upper Freehold Township, officers ripped out stalk after stalk of marijuana, each hid den amongst the corn. Piles and piles of the banned leafy plant were carried back to the makeshift central base where Detective Sgt. William Peacock of the State Police Marijuana Eradication Unit di rected the mission. After an hour of being out in the field, the soaking wet officers had seized a total of 96 marijuana plants, most nearly 7 feet tall.

As the men drove out, down a long muddied dirt road, they were confident they had collected every marijuana plant that had been growing in the field that day; however, looking around them at the vast open space of lush green woodlands, they knew the chances were great that more were hidden somewhere within the wildlife area.

"Marijuana is being grown in all 21 counties, in every town in the state," said Peacock. "It's everywhere."

Peacock, who has been with the eradication unit for eight years, said they typically seize 2,500 marijuana plants a year, making an average of 40 to 50 arrests yearly in different locations throughout the state. In his opinion, marijuana is growing in more ways than one, an increasing cultivation that he doesn't feel will diminish anytime soon.

During the summer months especially, Peacock's unit is out nearly every day searching in urban, suburban and rural areas, for the plant which can grow 12 feet high, forming a bushy Christmas tree shape and producing buds that are clipped, packaged and utilized as a drug, Peacock said. Illicit growers generally harvest the plants before the first frost near the end of October.

According to Peacock, a state police helicopter had spotted the Assunpink crop while surveying the area earlier in the month, which is one of the common ways they are able to detect marijuana in outdoor areas. The eradication unit also readily relies on helicopter assistance from the state and National Guard to guide them to a site dur ing search-and-destroy missions, like the one they performed Wednesday.

As of Wednesday, there were no suspects identified in connection with the Assunpink seizure, but Peacock said he could tell that most of the plants were initially homegrown and then transported to the field, because the base roots of many of the plants were covered in potting soil. The farmer who grows corn there was unaware of the illegal crop, officials said, which is often the case.

Recently, police have made several seizures in Hopewell Township, including one earlier this month at a popular tennis and swim club, where a custodian was allegedly growing marijuana in a wooded area on his employer's property. Police collected 80 plants in that bust, and Hopewell Township Police Lt. Thomas Pus kas said the incident on Titus Mill Road was "one of the larger instances" of marijuana cultiva tion they have seen.

Ewing resident Glenn Owens, 51, of Lianfair Lane, was arrested for allegedly growing nearly $160,000 worth of marijuana at the Hopewell Valley Tennis & Swim Center, police said. An investigation of plants found at two other Hopewell sites is still under investigation.

Police would not say how they discovered Owens' alleged marijuana crop, but the owner of the recreation complex, John Wunder, said he had at one time asked police to monitor the wooded area on his property be cause teenagers would occasionally trespass.

For Wunder and the entire staff of the center, learning their friend and fellow employee was allegedly using the property for criminal purposes was surprising.

"He was a model employee," said Wunder.

"He hadn't missed a day of work in eight years, and we were all shocked and saddened," Wunder said.

Attempts to reach Owens' at torney and family members were unsuccessful. He is being held at Mercer County Correction Center in Hopewell Township in lieu of $250,000 bail.

Owens was charged with pos session with intent to distribute, a first-degree crime that includes cultivating marijuana, and was taken to the correction center Aug. 3. The plants have since been seized and remain in a lab to be used as evidence in Owens' trial, officials said.

The eradication unit values each marijuana plant, no matter the size, at $2,000 and estimates that each can produce a pound of smokable marijuana. For large crops, like the one found in the Assunpink area, and the substantial crop Owens allegedly was growing, Peacock said they are al most always being grown for distribution purposes.

For marijuana plants to flourish and produce "the heavy bud that is so desired," Peacock said they need to be extremely well cared for, something he believes Owens was doing.

"It appeared this gentlemen had been out there quite often," he said.

With regards to outdoor grow ing, Peacock said it is more common for marijuana crops to be planted in wooded areas rather than cornfields or farmland, however, in his eight years of experience, Peacock believes he has seen it all.

"We had a job up in Essex County where we seized 182 plants out in a wooded area, in the middle of an industrial plant on the smallest piece of woods," Peacock said, noting that it is not just rural areas where marijuana cultivators can thrive.

Peacock also has seen hundreds of plants growing inside people's basements or in their back yards.

"One time we flew a helicopter over a man's back yard and he ran out and started pulling out the plants to try and get rid of them before the ground team could get there," Peacock said.

And while the outdoor missions only take place during the growing season from May to October, Peacock said the eradication unit investigates indoor cultivation all year long.

The eradication unit, which consists of four full-time officers, needs substantial evidence to ob tain a subpoena before they can begin an investigation of a person's home, which entails monitoring their electricity usage and purchases, Peacock said. The unit also sometimes uses infrared technology to scan homes.

Yet, overall, Peacock said, the eradication unit relies most heavily on caller tips to detect instances of marijuana cultivation in the state.

"There's a lot of places we'd never find without people calling," he said.

Since Owens' arrest, Hopewell Township police said they have seized 18 additional marijuana plants from two separate loca tions and are still investigating who was responsible for growing them. No arrests have been made in connection with those two cases.

Despite the recent prevalence of marijuana cultivation in the township, Puskas said it is not a common occurrence and that police are not overly concerned about the problem.

Police in several other Mercer County municipalities said marijuana cultivation does occur but is rare, especially in large quanti ties such as those found in Hopewell and the Assunpink cornfields.

As far as stomping out the statewide problem, Peacock said the eradication unit continues to rigorously investigate all reports of marijuana growing and urges the public to aid them in their quest to weed out marijuana from the state.

News Hawk- User http://www.420Magazine.com
Source: New Jersey On-Line
Contact: NJ.com: Everything Jersey
Copyright: 2007 New Jersey On-Line
Website: NJ.com: Everything Jersey

Herb Fellow

New Member
"He was a model employee," said Wunder.

"He hadn't missed a day of work in eight years, and we were all shocked and saddened," Wunder said.

:allgood: Can they say the same thing about the non-marijuana users?:hmmmm:

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
i can see barney phife running through the woods frantically saying...
"we gotta nip it, nip it in the bud"

for you youngsters there once was a place called mayberry
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