Bust yields $2.5M in pot

LANCASTER -- Lancaster County authorities found 17,000 marijuana plants Tuesday with an estimated worth of more than $2.5 million.

"This is the largest pot field we've have in Lancaster County," said Tom Holland of the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office.

The knee-high plants were discovered as authorities searched with the National Guard in a helicopter. The plants were rooted in three separate fields about two miles from S.C. 97 near the Kershaw County line, Holland said.

"We pulled all the plants and burned them," Holland said about the plants, which were discovered in a wooded area around 10 a.m. "It was a pretty sophisticated camp. They built retention ponds to catch the water, and they lined them with sheets of plastic. That takes a lot of work to dig holes to irrigate the plants."

The State Law Enforcement Division joined the search with their helicopter, but no other fields were found. All were located within a half-mile of each other and supported by a mobile pump, Holland said.

"When we got there, the pump was actually running, so somebody had been there recently," Holland said. "There were people living there. They probably heard the helicopter and scattered. There were cots and sleeping bags, canned foods and tables. This was a definite marijuana farm."

Authorities believe about 10 people lived at the camp; however, no arrests had been made Tuesday night, Holland said.

Cultivating marijuana is a crime that carries a minimum 25-year prison sentence and a maximum sentence of 30 years, Holland said.

Last summer, Chester County officials seized more than 26,500 marijuana plants valued at nearly $47 million. In Lancaster County, more than 8,000 plants worth $16 million were seized last year.

Anyone with information about the latest marijuana discovery can call the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office at 1-803-283-3388.