Quincy, Illinois — Just over a week ago Illinois Department of Conservation officers and West Central Illinois Task Force agents found $400,000 worth of cultivated marijuana.
The 500 or so plants were being grown on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River just north of Adams County. Once officers found the patch, they cut the crop and burned it.
“That’s a very large eradication. It means that we were able to keep a large amount of cannabis from ever hitting the street,” said Sgt. Glenn Schwartz with the task force.
Schwartz estimated the marijuana — once harvested — would have produced a minimum of 500 pounds of usable pot.
“That amount of cannabis can keep a great number of dealers supplied for a long time,” he said.
The investigation, which started three weeks ago, is continuing. It took agents four visits to the island before they found the patch.
“We had reports that it was out there, but it was really hard to locate with the cover and the terrain,” Schwartz said.
It was finally spotted by plane with the help of conservation officers. “They just have a tendency to draw on our knowledge of the area, the boonies. Besides we have the boats,” said conservation agent Glenn Sanders.
Sanders was a spotter in the plane and was on the ground team that later found the marijuana.
Sanders said his department and the task force find marijuana — either cultivated or growing wild — on an island at least once a year.
“Normally it’s not quite this big of an amount,” he said, noting this crop was “very well hidden.”
After spotting it from the plane agents used global positioning to mark the spot then went in by foot.
“When went in we were actually able to smell plants before we could see them,” Sanders said. “We were within 10 feet of the plants and still couldn’t see them because of the vegetation.”
Sanders and Schwartz said marijuana growers are wily that way. Using vegetation and trees, even planted fields to shield their operations.
These growers will cut back weeds, water and fertilize, even stake, young plants to give them a better fighting chance. Once harvested, in part because of such care, the cannabis is much more potent that what’s found growing wild.
“I was impressed by size of the plants and size of the plot,” Sanders said.
Three different plots contained marijuana plants topping 10 feet.
Schwartz also classified it as a “very large” haul. “It’s not untypical to find it this way, but the whole idea of the magnitude of it,” he said.
Sanders said keeping that much marijuana off the streets is important because not only is it illegal but because it can help prevent crimes like robberies, thefts and assaults that stem from drug use.
“It’s essential to keep on it,” Sanders said. “I’m tickled any time we can stop it like this before it hits the street.”
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