Authorities in Texas, who recently made one of the state’s biggest pot busts, stumbled on another startling marijuana find in August.
The marijuana farm itself was nothing to write home about: 11,500 plants on two acres. Earlier this month, police in East Texas uncovered a cannabis grow site with 100,000 plants, one of the largest raids in the state’s history.
What made the new discovery noteworthy was where it was located: in South Texas, just north of the Mexican border. Authorities said that simply doesn’t happen.
“I haven’t seen anything like this,” said Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence. “I’ve seen where guys would hollow out a place in the brush in their backyard or something close to their house, just a little bit. But this was quite spread out and dense and most of them were already pretty high.”
The border between Mexico and Texas is a major crossing point for Mexican cartels carrying low-grade weed into the United States. To combat the problem, the federal government uses two border checkpoints, one at the border itself and the other along the freeway, 25 to 75 miles into Texas.
The second checkpoint is designed to snare smugglers and terrorists who cross the border undetected. Most of those people need a mode of transport once in the United States, and roadways are the easiest.
The farm, which was discovered earlier in August, was located about 15 miles southwest of Raymondville. Notably, it was south of the interior checkpoints, meaning smugglers would still have to get it past the Border Patrol.
The plot was hidden in plain sight, planted in the middle of an agricultural area, near a citrus grove and grazing horses. It was located along a dirt path that led to a paved road nearly a mile away.
The site was hidden from view with a thicket of needles that police had to plow over just so they could access the farm. Authorities found small shelters and provisions camouflaged by the overgrowth, as well as food, fertilizer, and a tarp for shade.
Officials said they were surprised by the elaborate nature of the farm. It was only discovered when several undocumented immigrants stumbled across it while leaving an abandoned barn nearby.
The night before, police received an emergency call from an immigrant who said he’d been held, threatened, and beaten for three weeks in a local stash house. The man tried to lead police to the site but couldn’t find it.
The next day, cops stumbled on the farm while chasing a group of immigrants down backwoods paths.
“I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by how well it was done considering it’s the Rio Grande Valley and people down there are very experienced in irrigation and just growing in general,” said Mark Dawson, the deputy special agent in charge of Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley for the Department of Homeland Security.