The deputies were searching for marijuana Thursday with state Highway Patrol troopers, State Bureau of Investigation agents and the North Carolina National Guard Drug Unit when they found large plots of the illegal plant in a wooded area off of McArthur Road, which is south of U.S. Highway 421 near Broadway, authorities said.
About 30,000 plants were seized, ranging from 1 foot to 6 feet tall. Authorities estimated their value at $ 72 million.
Items to water, fertilizer and protect the plants from animals and insects were seized, and authorities said they found two camp sites with tortillas and other food, personal items like laundry detergent, cooking supplies and tents.
A pot of pork and beans was still hot on the stove when authorities swarmed over the site Thursday afternoon. Maj. Gary McNeill of the Harnett County Sheriff's Office said the workers hired to tend to the crop likely scattered when they saw the National Guard helicopter overhead that was scouting for marijuana in the woods.
Authorities conducted a ground and air search but didn't find any suspects.
In June, authorities pulled up an estimated $120 million in marijuana plants in eight plots off Womack Road. An initial estimate valued the plants at $84 million, but authorities said Friday they wound up with more plants than they first counted.
Last month, another $12 million in marijuana was found near Hollie Pines and Holly Springs roads. Both locations also are near Broadway.
McNeill said authorities believe the same organization is responsible for all three sites, noting they were set up the same way and were located within a few miles of each other.
"We have some information that we're following up on," he said when asked whether authorities have any suspects in the case.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Harnett County Sheriff's Office tip line at 910-893-0100.
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