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Marijuana crop well-hidden

cultivators may never be found

November 01, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

A week after some 100 marijuana plants were removed from a North County agricultural field, an official with the county Narcotic Task Force said the investigation is continuing but said it will be difficult to find suspects.

The plants were pulled from a field farmed near Brawley. The field is owned by R&R Land and Cattle Co. of Brawley and farmed by Salico Farms of Brawley.

An NTF official who asked not to be identified said neither the landowner nor the company farming the land are under suspicion.

He said the case is similar to cases in Northern California in which those growing the marijuana place the plants in a legitimate agricultural field, where the marijuana will be well-hidden. In doing so they destroy a portion of the legitimate crop to make room for the marijuana and then tap into the field's water and fertilizer supply to cultivate the drug.


In this case, the marijuana was hidden deep in an asparagus field.

The NTF official said he is unsure how long the marijuana had been growing. The plants were spotted by a county Sheriff's Office airplane crew that noticed suspicious round cutouts in the field.

That fly-by sparked an investigation that led to the discovery of the plants last week. The marijuana has been removed from the field and was to be destroyed.

The NTF official said while the landowner and farmer are not under suspicion, it will be a difficult case to pursue because of the access people have to the field.

The official said this is the first case he is aware of in the Imperial Valley where marijuana plants have been placed within a legitimate agricultural field.

When asked if there is a chance there could be more marijuana growing in other ag fields in the Valley, the official said it is possible.

He said authorities are going to have to be vigilant to that possibility.

Phil Rutherford, one of owners of R&R Land and Cattle Co., said this morning he had no idea marijuana plants were in fields on his land, adding he didn't learn of their presence until a story appeared in this newspaper last week.

Salico Farms owner Niaz Mohamed said last week he also was surprised by the discovery.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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