Officers from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and State Bureau of Investigation netted about three dozen marijuana plants Friday as the result of an aerial search.
Moving along the eastern edge of the county from north to south, the operation began at about 9 a.m. and ended at about 4 p.m., said Sgt. Ty Rucker of the sheriff’s office. Officers made no arrests, although one is pending, he said.
“While we have all the manpower, we want to do everything we possibly can” to spot the plants, Rucker said.
Using helicopters from the National Guard or Highway Patrol, local law officers conduct such searches during the height of growing season each summer, sometimes conducting one operation and, sometimes, five or six, Rucker said.
On Friday, he said, the yield pointed to personal recreational use and not cultivation for profit.
“But,” he said, “as long as it’s illegal, we have to enforce the law.”
The search yielded 10 or more plants in a patch off Millstone Road, Rucker said. Charges are pending against that grower, he said.
A cannabis cache found near Old Cheraw Road south of Hamlet was three times larger but yielded no potential arrests.
Although officers suspected the patch belonged to a man who has been arrested previously on charges of growing marijuana, the plants found Friday were outside the fence bordering the man’s property and on state land, Rucker said. The 24 or so plants were thriving, he added — some tall and thin, some shorter and bushy, depending on the strain.
The prior arrest occurred in 2012 or 2013, Rucker said, and although officers have searched since, they have found no plants — “until today.”
Marijuana-eradication efforts have been going on around the state, SBI spokeswoman Patty McQuillan said Friday.
“Summertime, when everything’s growing,” she said, “that’s when they check the fields.”
The Marijuana Eradication Program is a joint effort that uses federal financing, state-owned aircraft and county sheriff’s officers to find and destroy marijuana plants.
Rucker said the effort appeared to be working in Richmond County, especially during the past 10 years, because investigators now find smaller and fewer marijuana plots.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]