SE doesn't grow most of its own

Posted: Sunday, November 12, 2000

Marijuana-growing operations are rare birds in Southeast Alaska in contrast to the frequent fliers in the Matanuska and Sustina valleys.

While busts of Mat-Su grow operations may number more than 100 annually, busts here can be counted on one hand.

On May 24, for example, a tiny grow operation was discovered in a clearing above the end of Thane Road. Twenty-two plants were seized.

"There were no arrests. There were no leads for them to work on," said Juneau Police Department Operations Capt. Thomas Porter Jr.

On Oct. 16, six outdoor marijuana grow sites were eradicated in a joint operation by the U.S. Forest Service, Alaska State Troopers and police departments from Craig, Wrangell and Petersburg.

The sites were on U.S. Forest Service land in the Tongass National Forest north of Thorne Bay on Prince of Wales Island. Authorities seized 279 mature plants with a street value estimated at $25,000 to $33,480.

"That was the largest outdoor grow in history in Southeast," said Forest Service special agent Jack Davis of Ketchikan. "We do have a suspect, but no arrests have been made."

Occasionally growers build makeshift greenhouses out in the bush, such as an operation he saw on Prince of Wales Island five years ago. But Davis said complex indoor grows are uncommon.

Juneau police have broken up a number of grow operations in garages and mobile homes. One in the 1980s was spotted because the electrical power draw was incredibly high. In a later case, a grow light in an apartment ignited fumes from a motorcycle that was being repaired.

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