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WAR ON DRUGS Record marijuana crop found near county sheriff's center



Published: Sat, August 20, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The plants covered an area 50 years wide and as long as two football fields.

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- One of the largest marijuana crops seized in Orange County, Calif., was discovered within sight of the county sheriff's communications center, tucked under trees in a rural area.

On Friday, sheriff's officers began digging up the stash -- an estimated 2,000 marijuana plants worth an estimated $500,000, sheriff's spokesman Jon Fleischman said.

A sheriff's helicopter pilot on routine patrol spotted the field Thursday afternoon. The plants -- some as tall as 10 feet -- covered a swath stretching about two football fields long and 50 yards wide.

The location of the crop was "kind of novel" Fleischman said. "The person needs only to look up and see the Sheriff's Department's communication center."

The pilot first estimated that the field contained only about 200 to 300 plants because most were hidden under a canopy of trees.

"It was only after the narcotics investigators hiked up into the canyon ... that they were able to determine this was a much more sizable growth than they thought," Fleischman said. "It was basically masked from the air. It was a very lucky angle that our helicopter was able to see it."

The plants are being removed by the Sheriff's Department. They will be taken to a storage facility to be destroyed.

A second crop, of about 220 plants, was found about a mile and a half southeast of the first, Fleischman said. It's not clear who planted the fields.




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