Wed, Jan 22, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Police raid marijuana nursery, confiscate seedlings

DRUG BUST Authorities arrested four suspects at a plantation on a remote farm in Wuku, Taipei County. Officials said the farmers had evaded the police before

CNA , TAIPEI

Police discovered a nursery for marijuana plants in northern Taiwan yesterday, seizing more than 4,500 seedlings and arresting four suspects.

Police claimed that the haul in Wuku, Taipei County has a street value of NT$10 million, and said it was the largest case involving marijuana plants for several years.

Tipped off last September, Taipei city police learned that drug dealers had smuggled marijuana seeds into Taiwan for cultivation. After a stakeout, police traced the plantation to a remote farm in Wuku.

The seedlings were to later have been transported to southern Taiwan. After three months, the drug dealers would have harvested the plants and sent them to a factory to produce marijuana cigarettes to sell in pubs and illegal clubs.

Police said the drug dealers were wily and would often change the site of the nursery.

Police would often find a "vast field" of marijuana seedlings, only to find it completely empty when they made a raid the next day.

Police then solicited the assistance of experts. As marijuana seedlings need a lot of fertilizer, police targeted fertilizer suppliers and were thereafter able to trace the nursery.

All four of those arrested claimed that they were only hired to deliver the plants and did not know they were marijuana.

Meanwhile, the National Police Administration said cases of marijuana and opium poppy cultivation have often been reported in recent years, and that they are planning to set up a training camp so that police are able to identify the controlled plants.

Police are also considering random checks on remote mountain regions."

Police said that Taiwan's terrain and climate are similar to that of southwestern China, parts of India and Thailand, giving the nation suitable conditions for growing opium and marijuana.

The seeds are small and easily available, and drug dealers can smuggle them into Taiwan with little chance of detection.

Drug rings often provide handsome money to lure farmers to plant the seeds in remote mountain regions, telling them that they are "mountain vegetables." The dealers can make huge profits through this method, according to the police.

Police noted that they made raids on marijuana fields in Nantou, Miaoli and Taitung counties last year alone.

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