WIS goes along on massive marijuana bust - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

WIS goes along on massive marijuana bust

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A state Forestry Commission bulldozer clears a camp at a marijuana growing site A state Forestry Commission bulldozer clears a camp at a marijuana growing site

For the last four years, a group of South Carolina law enforcement agencies has been working to wipe out marijuana fields along a large stretch of Interstate 77.

The agents were at it again Thursday in York County.

They've also been in Lancaster, Chester and Fairfield counties this week.

If it's is a field of dreams for drug dealers,  a wake-up call is on the way from members of a multi-jurisdictional task force made up of county, state and federal agencies.

Their task is to wipe out marijuana fields in four counties near I-77: York, Lancaster, Chester and Fairfield.

Tuesday, they were in northeast Fairfield County.

Their target: an elaborate pot growing operation that produced hundreds of large, healthy plants.

"A little over 2,500 plants," said Capt. Brad Douglas with the Fairfield County Sheriff's Department. "In the past, we've found groves much larger. But the plants have not been as mature and these are. These are very mature."

The plants were grown in a clearing surrounded by heavy woods. Getting to them required help from a Forestry Commission bulldozer.

Once in, sheriff's deputies, SLED, DNR and DEA personnel attacked the plants with machetes. They stacked them on ATV's to be carried away and burned.

The growers went to considerable effort to create and protect their crops. A siphon hose ran downhill from a creek bed for irrigation. And a fence made out of chicken wire and tree branches keeps the deer out.

Investigators say several of the growers appear to have fled the scene shortly before the task force arrived.

The suspects had clearly spent some time working on the operation. Their kitchen was complete with a stove, pots and pans.

Another area provided a place to sleep on a handcrafted hammock.

"It's very sophisticated," said Douglas. "I think you know every time we find these throughout the years, that they become more advanced."

The task force made no arrests Thursday.  But if the suspects return, they won't find much.

The pot plants are gone and the campsite was crushed by the state bulldozer.

One estimate put the street value of the plants found in Fairfield County at $4 million.  There's no word yet on how much marijuana has been located in the other three counties.

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