(NASHVILLE, TN), September 6, 2012 – Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) got an up close view of the work being done by the Governor’s Task Force on Marijuana Eradication as he participated in a ground operation in the Van Buren County Region this week. Ketron and House State and Local Government Committee Chairman Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville) joined task force members who located and eradicated approximately 3,000 plants valued at an estimated $1 million.
The Task Force consists of members from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Highway Patrol, the Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Tennessee National Guard, which also provides air support. The group uses veteran agents who are trained to locate the illegal crop from the air before sending Task Force members on the ground to eradicate the plants and investigate the growers.
“For many years I have listened to the need for placing resources into eradication of this illegal drug in our committees,” said Senator Ketron, who was formerly Chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee. “Witnessing what this Task Force does first hand gives me a renewed respect for the tough and important job that these law enforcement agents do in keeping this drug off our streets.”
Tennessee was identified by the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Drug Enforcement Administration as one of the top seven states for marijuana cultivation in 2005. The federal agencies targeted funding to counter growing operations in primary cultivation states, like Tennessee, after they were designated. Marijuana has been eradicated in all ninety five counties in the state.
“Marijuana growers go to great lengths to hide their crop from law enforcement authorities,” added Ketron. “They don’t mind growing it on private or public property and look for obscure locations where the terrain makes it very difficult to access. After spotting the crop by air, the Task Force utilizes ATVs to reach the location. The location we went to was impassible even by an all terrain vehicle and could only be reached by foot. After reaching the crop, the agents must cut and carry it to waiting trucks before it is destroyed, which is a very physically exhausting task.”
“These growers are very sophisticated in their watering systems to ensure the crop reaches maturity,” Ketron added. “We are talking about a major money making drug operation. In some locations Task Force members have even suspected that there could be Mexican drug cartel involvement due to some of the evidence left at the scene. This is a huge concern for Tennessee.”
Ketron said Task Force agents face many dangers during eradication operations, including the potential for booby traps, tripwires, and snipers. These dangers are in addition to the natural elements associated with going into a remote location which is inhabited by snakes, briars and insects.
“Tennessee has a significant drug problem that we must address and marijuana eradication is a necessary part of getting to the heart of that problem. My hat is off to these Task Force members who put their safety on the line to address it,” Ketron concluded.