Busts of clandestine marijuana farms have greatly declined in Alabama since 2009, according to federal data, but the reasons why are anyone’s guess.
Federal dollars for eradication efforts have declined, and sheriffs say that local growers have started hiding their operations better or buying cheaper product shipped in from Mexico.
DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge for Alabama Clay Morris said marijuana remains a “very lucrative business” and one of the most widely used drugs in the country, even though, its dangers, arguably, are not as severe as such other popular drugs like synthetic marijuana and methamphetamine.
Alabama is one of four states under the umbrella of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Orleans Field Division, joining Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Of those, Alabama receives the most funding for marijuana eradication.
“We have a very rural state,” Morris said. “We have some mountainous areas. That is a preferred location for marijuana growers.”
For the past three years, the Alabama Department of Public Safety has received $191,000 each year from the DEA for eradication. Most of that pays for state trooper and National Guard aerial surveillance of marijuana-growing hot spots.
Still, it isn’t nearly enough for flyovers throughout the May to September growing season, according to Public Safety spokeswoman Robyn Bryan.
In years past, the DEA gave funding sufficient for 22 to 24 weeks of flying. Now, Bryan said, the money stretches just six to seven weeks.
Morris said flying is essential to locating covert marijuana growers, but federal and state authorities rely on intelligence gathered largely through sheriff’s investigators and informants.
‘A few plants here and there’
No one disputes that marijuana remains very lucrative for growers who can evade detection.
Still, in southeast Alabama’s Pike County, Sheriff Russell Thomas said that the discovery several weeks ago of 265 marijuana plants …read more