GWINN – More than 1,200 marijuana plants were seized during recent fly-overs conducted across the region, announced officials from the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team (UPSET) Friday.
As a result of the investigation, arrest warrants are pending on six individuals suspected of manufacturing marijuana and other drug violations, said Jeff Racine, UPSET Commander.
Street value of the 1,200 pot plants is estimated at $1,000-$2,000 each, or $12,000-$24,000 total. Several weapons were also seized in the sting.
The drug bust was part of UPSET’s “Operation HEMP,” which stands for “Help Eliminate Marijuana Planting.” Because of this year’s longer growing season, more pot plants than normal were seen from the air for this late in the year, Racine said.
Operation HEMP covered 12 of the 15 counties in the Upper Peninsula, in search of marijuana plantings, he said.
“This year we had four helicopters so we were able to cover all 12 counties that were covered,” Racine said. Helicopters were provided by Michigan State Police, Michigan National Guard, and U.S. Customs.
Other agencies assisting in Operation Hemp were law officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Alcohol-Tobacco-Firearms, the Federal Forest Service, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Local agencies also assisted in the recovery of plants.
Though many plantings were seen for this late in the season in the U.P., officers are reporting statewide that marijuana planting sightings are down somewhat this year overall, Racine said.
Police across the state are saying this is because more pot plants are being grown indoors as a result of the state’s new marijuana laws allowing medically-authorized patients to grow and use marijuana, he said.
Some patients, as well as some caregivers who are allowed to grow pot, are abusing the law and obtaining permits through fraud, said Racine. This deception is creating more problems for law enforcement in Michigan and the other states which have enacted medical marijuana laws, he said.
In addition to the marijuana seizures and the related pending arrests, UPSET also confiscated drugs and arrested 17 drug suspects from across the U.P. this past week, Racine said.
Nine of the suspects were arrested in Delta County, two in Schoolcraft County and one in Menominee County, Racine said Friday. The remaining suspects were from Marquette and Iron counties. Additional arrests are pending and could double the number of current arrests, he added.
Charges relate to the delivery and possession of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and prescription drugs.
By Jenny Lancour