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1,600 Marijuana Plants Up in Smoke

[Linked Image] The Belize Defence Force today reported that it has destroyed close to one-hundred and fifty thousand marijuana plants and almost a ton of compressed marijuana in the north and south of the country so far for 2010. That's a lot of weed, but apparently, there's still a lot more on the streets, where there's no scarcity being reported right now. And that's probably why the BDF keeps soldiering on; marijuana is still classified as an illegal drug and the streets say it is in plentiful supply right now a good part of the army's effort is spent detecting and eradicating large plantations. This morning at dawn, they took us on one of those missions where I got to see first hand what all is involved in the destruction of those plantations. We were taken to a plantation with 1600 plants south of Carmelita village.

Jim McFadzean Reporting,
It was supposed to be one of the usual staged for TV go up in smokes, a few acres of good ole green marijuana plants scheduled for 05:00, that's military time, but at 06:00 this morning, this very poorly underdressed reporter somewhat tired after a couple hours of snooze is here still looking for the great prize.

Using intelligence both on the ground and in the air, a small detachment of soldiers pan out early this morning under the cover of dawn to secure a perimeter of less than a mile where two suspected marijuana farms are. The BDF's air wing provides the group with key mapping information from reconnaissance flights conducted two days before.

Lt Col Ganney Dortch, BDF Chief of Staff
[Linked Image] "Somewhere around here. It is not that far. This is where the village is. It is ten kilometres away from the village."

In the midst of this thick vegetation and nagging bugs, the search continues, its now 07:00 hours, and so far the two plantations have been identified. In the process of securing the suspected area, a discovery of a gun trigger handle and signs of habitation have sounded alarm bells amongst the contingent of soldiers and the accompanying press is ordered to take cover. After the all clear signal is given, the reason becomes clear. The defence force has stumbled into what seems like a well established and carefully managed marijuana camp.

Mapping coordinates showing it at one kilometre south of the Joe Goff's Pine Ridge. And while there's no human in sight, a friendly blood hound seems to take pleasure in introducing us to the site.

A freshly cooked pot of beans, the hanging remains of a deer, male clothing strewn on a wooden bed frame, several syringes, and English language books, give a partial insight to security forces as they try to come up with a profile of the camp's occupants. A further search reveals a well, plant fertilizer, a small supply of groceries and what seems like some amount of subsistence planting of pumpkin and cabbage amidst the marijuana crop.

This morning's BDF operation is one of many conducted as part of its mandate, to eradicate and stem the cultivation of this controversial plant known on the street as ganja, weed, and for modern day users as chronic and 420.

The vocal Jeremy Spooner, co-host of the WAVE Radio and Television 'Fus ting da Mawning' talk show, believes its time for the country to decriminalize marijuana and have the Security forces dedicate more of its resources to in his words"�more serious crimes.

Jeremy Spooner, Talk Show Host
[Linked Image] "My take on them whole thing about using the security forces to seek and destroy marijuana plantations I believe with the present mindset towards marijuana I feel it may be a waste of our money to conduct these operations when you have countries like in America and Europe which are decriminalizing the use of marijuana. I think Belize should take that same kind of approach. I have a modern outlook on marijuana. I feel that people in the world today should have a choice of the recreational drugs that they do take because you can't exclude liquor which is legal. That is a drug and it has caused a lot of devastation in the community when people drink and I agree that marijuana if abused can also bring about problems for the user. I feel that to say legalize marijuana is probably a very frightening word for a lot of people and so I believe decriminalizing it, where you are allowed to have a certain amount and if you are ever caught with it and so on and I believe have a right to use it for medicinal or for recreational purpose."

The already over-extended Belize Defence Force says a significant deployment of resources are indeed dedicated to this type of effort.

Lt Col Ganney Dortch,
"Whenever we conduct such operations it means that we have to leave the level of threat and we have to ensure we have a back up plan which means the employment of more human resources. Apart from that it also entails using other resources such as the vehicles, feeding etc."

Its now almost 08:00, and after trekking thru harm's way for the last couple of hours, it's 420, the grand prize and now this very tired and hungry reporter is calling it a day. Reporting for Seven News, I'm Jim McFadzean.

The estimated 1600 marijuana trees were uprooted and destroyed by fire, along with the contents of the camp settlement. And if you are wondering about the hound puppy, well, there was a tussle over adoption as one television reporter and a member of the BDF detachment both declared first rights. At the end, The BDF officer won that argument!

As is the case in the destruction of most marijuana fields, no one was found in the area and no arrests were made. That figure we quoted at the top of the story for 2010 - which is close to 150 thousand plants destroyed is a sharp increase from the previous two years. n 2008, seventeen thousand plants were destroyed and in 2009, thirty thousand were destroyed. In just the first quarter of 2010, the BDF has have trebled the combined total for those two years.

Live and let live
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,395

What goes into B.D.F. drug eradication operations?

Lt. Col. Ganey Dortch

Lt. Col. Ganey Dortch

Before the groundwork was completed, the operation began with a flyover and reconnaissance by the B.D.F.'s Defender. The man at the helm, Lieutenant Colonel Ganey Dortch, said that it was a team effort by various departments in the B.D.F. that led not only to today's success but to the one hundred and fifty thousand plants that have been destroyed since the beginning of 2010.

Lt. Col. Ganey Dortch, Chief of Staff, B.D.F.

"The air wing would initially conduct an aerial reconnaissance, which we did to identify the field after which we brought in the ground troops and the intelligence department to actually confirm that yes, it was indeed a marijuana plantation. After that an official order was made and we gave orders for that field to have been destroyed. And again, I must emphasize in the presence of the police who are the legal persons responsible for the destruction of the marijuana plantation. Whenever we conduct such an operation, it simply means that we have to lift the level of threat and we have to ensure that we have a backup plan, which means the employment of more human resources. Apart from that, it also entails using other resources such as vehicles, feeding etcetera."

Jose Sanchez

"How much resources goes into an operation such as the one we saw today?"

Lt. Col. Ganey Dortch

"To rightfully place it and to put it from a military standpoint, when it comes to the human resources, it does not necessarily mean that we spend more per say; it means that we have to divert our focus from one area and now to drug eradication. For example, from maybe doing camp duties or doing other relevant stuff as it pertains to our mandate, it means now that we have to focus our attention now on drug eradication."

Jose Sanchez

"The operation itself that you carry out on a yearly basis, does it just put a little dent or does it seriously impact the availability of marijuana on the streets?"

Lt. Col. Ganey Dortch

"It does have an impact on the availability of marijuana on the streets. I would just like to bring to your attention that in 2008 we destroyed only seventeen thousand plants of marijuana. In 2009 we were fortunate to increase to just over thirty thousand and up until today we have destroyed just over one hundred and fifty thousand plants which shows that our efforts, because of the recent increase in drug problems that we have been facing in the streets of Belize City, we have increased our effort in this anti narcotic operation."

In case you were wondering how much marijuana went up in smoke, the soldiers at the scene said they were valued over fifteen thousand dollars.

Channel 7

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