Two arrested after hydroponic marijuana lab discovered

by | August 31, 2010 12:00 am

Law enforcement officers raided the home of Richard Kenyon, 51, and Nita Haynes, 62, located at 192 Fortner Pond Road in Kite, on Tuesday, August 10, 2010. The officers, armed with a search warrant, made an unusual discovery inside the home: a hydroponic marijuana laboratory.

It is not uncommon for law enforcement to find marijuana growing indoors. Marijuana is commonly grown indoors to avoid detection from marijuana eradication efforts each year, when the Governor’s Task Force use helicopters to conduct flyovers in rural parts of the state, which are common growing sites for marijuana.

It is uncommon to find a hydroponic indoor grow operation. Hydroponic marijuana is grown without the use of soil. The plants are grown from seeds, or rooted from high-quality plants. Nutrients and fertilizers are introduced to the root systems through irrigation systems, and sunlight is substituted by use of artificial horticulture lights.

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, Wrightsville Police Department, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and East Central Drug Task Force executed the warrant at approximately 3 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. The officers worked until dark collecting evidence and dismantling the elaborate laboratory. Officers discovered various rooms for different stages of processing the plants, from a seedling nursery to a grow room for mature plants, marijuana drying area, and vacuum pack system room. Systems for irrigation, fertilization, lighting, and ventilation took hours to document and dismantle.

Hydroponic marijuana has a street value that is significantly higher than that of commercial-grade marijuana. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), hydroponic marijuana is valued at $5,000 per pound. Commercial grade marijuana is valued at $1,200 per pound. Officers discovered 16 plants inside the house, from seedlings to some that have recently been harvested.

Kenyon and Haynes were not present when the warrant was executed, but later surrendered to Johnson County Sheriff Rusty Oxford, and booked at the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. Both faced charges of manufacturing marijuana, trafficking marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and possession of drug related objects.

According to Georgia Bureau of Investigation assistant special agent-in-charge Alan Watson, this is the first hydroponic marijuana laboratory that has been discovered, in the local area, in his 23 years of law enforcement. Watson is the commander of the East Central Georgia Drug Task Force in Swainsboro.

“I appreciated the cooperation and assistance from all those who participated in this investigation. Sheriff Oxford, Chief Gresham and their staff were extremely helpful. The GBI Middle Georgia Regional Drug Enforcement Office is also assisting in the case,” said Watson.

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