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Now this is one toke over the line;
Huge pot crop found near sheriff's facilityBy Jennifer Muir, Knight Ridder News Service, Wire Services

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 nearly 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 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.

"In these kinds of cases, we don't typically put many resources behind finding out who is growing the marijuana," Fleischman said. "It's problematic to find out who is really benefiting."

That's because migrant workers typically are hired to monitor and harvest the crops, and it's difficult to track the owners through the chain of command, Fleischman said.

The plants were being watered with a homemade irrigation system.

Canals siphoned rainwater from higher elevations, including from a nearby avocado field, to the marijuana plants.

"It looks like this is not the first crop," Fleischman said. "This grove has been cultivated for some time."
August 22, 2005
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