On the heels of a warning about increasing marijuana production in Washington state, a lower Yakima Valley farmer preparing a cornfield has been credited with the discovery of more than 10,000 young pot plants.
Agents from Law Enforcement Against Drugs, a regional task force, removed the recently planted marijuana Thursday from a field about seven miles east of Zillah. No arrests were reported.
Marijuana growers often seed cornfields with pot to take advantage of irrigation and camouflage in the taller legal crop.
Investigators said it was the first major outdoor marijuana raid in Washington state this year and one of the earliest of its size in years.
The pot apparently had been planted within the last week would have been worth $3 million to $5 million at harvest, State Patrol Sgt. Richard A. Beghtol, a task force member, told the Yakima Herald-Republic.
Yakima Valley's pot season usually is not in full swing until the summer, Beghtol said.
"I'm as surprised as anybody it came this quick," he said.
Earlier in the week, Drug Enforcement Administration agents told a conference of the state's sheriffs and police chiefs in Yakima that marijuana production in Washington state is about at the level of California seven to 10 years ago.
Seizures of marijuana plants in the state more than doubled to 296,611 last year, and Washington now ranks second in outdoor pot growing and third in indoor production, both led by California, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Meanwhile, in Yakima, city police and county sheriff's deputies report growing shipments of compressed bales of marijuana, mostly from Mexico but some from Northern California and southern Oregon.
Since December the Yakima City-County Narcotics Unit has seized almost 1,500 pounds of baled pot, compared 422 pounds of processed pot seized in all of 2007 and 25 pounds in 2006.
The pot shipped north is far less potent than what is grown indoors in British Columbia and the Puget Sound area and sells for about a third of the price, $1,000 a pound on the street compared with $3,000 or more for "B.C. Bud," enforcement officials say.