The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

October 9, 2012

Law agencies combat illegal grow operations

By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer

CLINTON — Beans aren’t the only crop being harvested in Iowa. It’s also time for marijuana growers to collect their crop.  

The State Department of Public Safety officials have asked rural land owners, farm workers and hunters who might be traveling through remote or seldom visited areas in Iowa to be on the look out for hidden marijuana grow operations.   

In recent weeks, the Iowa Department of Narcotics Enforcement in partnership with local officers, have discovered large, outdoor grow operations in southwest and south central Iowa.

On Sept. 14 law enforcement eradicated a 3,850 plant marijuana growing operation that had been abandoned in Taylor County.  On Sept. 25 law enforcement eradicated a 571 plant marijuana growing operation in rural Decatur County, Iowa.

Lt. Dan Birdsley with the Clinton County Sheriff’s department said while his department’s finds have not been as large — 15 to 20 plants — there is still a need for residents or those travelling through remote areas to watch for the illegal grow operations.  

“People should definitely be on the look out,” Birdsley said.

Of the illegal grow operations discovered by the sheriff’s department in Clinton County before, mostly at the edge of wooded areas.  The most recent find was a year and a half to two years ago.   

Common traits of marijuana grow operations include use of private land by individuals unaware of grow operations and a location in dense timber areas.  The state office also advises growers live full or part-time at the grow site in small, make-shift camps and  will abandon the site for several weeks if they suspect the operation has been discovered.  

The state office is advising anyone who comes across an area that looks suspicious to leave the area immediately, avoid disturbing the area because it may contain evidence and call local law enforcement once they are in a safe area.  

Although there have been no violent encounters reported with marijuana growers in Iowa or Clinton County, the story is not the same in other states.

“If they see something, leave the area, don’t disturb anything, don’t tell anyone and call the Sheriff’s office,” Birdsley said.