Originally created 08/02/97

Ware deputies `harvest' almost 500 marijuana plants



WAYCROSS, Ga. - Ware County sheriff's deputies have uprooted almost 500 marijuana plants discovered growing in three patches in isolated sections of the county during a two-day "harvest."

Sheriff Ronnie McQuaig estimated Thursday the plants, which were in areas concealed by woods, would have had a street value of about $700,000 if they had grown to maturity and been processed and sold.

The seizure is the largest in Ware County this year, said Chief Deputy W.T. Cady.

No arrests have been made, but detectives are tracking several leads about the suspected growers, McQuaig said.

McQuaig said deputies and agents with the multi-agency Southeast Georgia Drug Enforcement Task Force confiscated the marijuana plants Tuesday and Wednesday. They were assisted by a National Guard helicopter crew who detected one of the patches from the air and a tip led police to the others, he said.

Police took out two patches Ä containing 278 and 34 plants Ä in woods bordering the Okefenokee Swamp in the southern end of the county on Tuesday. On Wednesday, they cut down 159 plants growing in the northern end of the county, McQuaig said.

He said some of the plants were growing in nursery plots positioned inside children's wading pools filled with water so the marijuana could soak up moisture and humidity.

McQuaig said it is possible the two patches near the swamp might have been planted by the same person, but it was unknown if all three involved the same growers.

The plants averaged about 2 feet to 3 feet, Cady said.

McQuaig said cool spring weather has impeded the growth of marijuana, which thrives in hot, humid conditions, in the county.