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Cops chop pot crop

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Carroll deputies, Virginia State Police troopers and Virginia Department of Forestry personnel swooped in on a patch of pot plants in the Cana area Thursday.

Authorities had eyes in the sky with a state police helicopter on a marijuana eradication flight, and they spotted about 50 plants from the air, says Carroll Sheriff Warren Manning.

Each plant would be worth $1,000 if peddled as an illegal drug on the street, so this bust kept about $50,000 of pot from being sold, he said.

The amount of marijuana being grown in the county seems to be dropping, from what the sheriff's department can tell. Manning said sometimes the officers find more, sometimes less.

"It just depends on what we can spot while we're up there flying," he said.

The enforcement measure is a hallmark of the summer growing season, the sheriff noted. People who otherwise might be tempted to grow their own illegal crops have taken notice.

"They know we're coming," he said. "They're afraid to take a chance."

The law enforcement officers search the unpopulated hillsides, in wooded areas and in overgrown fields for pot, Manning said. People have learned not to grow it right next to their own houses, because the deputies can make charges right away.

When the marijuana is grown in remote areas, deputies have to work harder to collect evidence, he said.

In this case, the investigation is ongoing, though Manning was hopeful charges would arise from the seizure.

The foresters were part of the ground team, the sheriff said. The foresters know the terrain well.

"Once you spot it, you have to find it on the ground... you have to tromp down a lot of weeds."

Manning wouldn't say how many more eradications the sheriff's department would undertake this year, but he noted that they always have a helicopter available for that kind of work.

Deputies had already found about 30 marijuana plants in searches prior to the eradication Thursday, said Investigator Shannon Goad.