Drought Revealing Outdoor Marijuana Grows

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More than two thirds of the United States is currently in moderate to extreme drought conditions. The lack of water is showing up in early browning and failure of corn and other crops across the country. For those that conceal their outdoor marijuana plots in normally green vegetation, the still green weed is showing up clearly against the background of brown.

State police in Indiana are reporting that aircraft-based surveillance, tasked with spotting outdoor marijuana grows, is much more successful this year, particularly when plants are growing in cornfields. Normally, the corn and the marijuana would be about the same height and color in August, with the marijuana due to be harvested shortly. But because the corn crops are having such a hard time, the weed sticks out.

Marijuana doesn’t require as much water to grow as corn and the roots run deeper. Further, careful cultivators will often water marijuana plants to protect their valuable harvest. Police typically use small aircraft to spot the plots and direct ground units to wherever they happen to be.

"It is not called weed for nothing," one trooper told The News and Tribune. "It grows like a weed."

On a recent sweep, Indiana State Police found a hundred plants. In another, they arrested a man with 74 plants growing on his property. Normally, farmers with weed in their fields aren’t arrested – there’s almost no way to prove they knew it was there unless they confess. Even dozens of plants wouldn’t be noticed by a farmer when his corn crop covers hundreds of acres -- as long as the illegal growers harvest before the farmer does.

With the drought, police are left to collect the plants for later disposal. The risk of wildfire is too great to burn them where they are discovered.

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