DURHAM — August 4, 1996, 9:02 a.m. EDT
What might have been the largest marijuana crop ever found in Durham County was chopped to the ground Friday. Grown on state property, the crop's 1,064 plants were valued at $2.5 million.
It took sheriff's deputies more than 5 hours to whack down the 10- to 16-foot-tall plants and haul them off. The crop's owner has not been discovered, and because it was state land there are no private property owners to question.
Troops aboard a National Guard helicopter spotted the marijuana from the air, off Leesville Road north of U.S. 70. It would have been very difficult to spot the plants from the ground.
The grower had gone to great lengths to impede aerial detection of his plants. Trees had been felled to give the plants plenty of sun; he had painted the downed trunks dark green to act as camouflage from overhead.
Midsummer is the peak of the marijuana growing season, and officials speculated that these plants were ready for harvest.
Last week, a similar aerial search over Orange County led officials to 276 plants worth about $644,000