How many marijuana plants does it take to make a stash of marijuana worth $1,872,000?
That was a question on many people’s minds in the wake of a weekend drug bust by the Halifax County-South Boston Regional Narcotics and Gang Task Force that took a purported $1.872 million in pot plants out of circulation. How did the authorities arrive at their estimate?
Mark Campbell with the Virginia State Police, coordinator of the regional task force, said the key number is $3,000 — the federal Drug Enforcement Agency’s figure for the value of a typical marijuana plant in this area of Virginia. Although he declined to say exactly how many plants were seized in the bust, he acknowledged the math is pretty simple.
“It was well over 600 plants,” he said.
The calculus for determining the value of a single marijuana plant is a little more complicated, however.
Unlike more straightforward transactions, the sale price of marijuana — its street value — is influenced by factors such as region, demographics, even the race of the seller and buyer, said Campbell. Whites selling marijuana to whites will often demand a different price than blacks selling to blacks, or blacks and whites selling or buying drugs from each other.
As a rule of thumb, pot sold on the street in Halifax County will fetch anywhere from $150-$300 an ounce, said Campbell. In general, the price for marijuana “depends on the geographic area, on what the street value of narcotics are,” he said. “[Price] reflects supply and demand, how much pressure law enforcement is putting on dealers, who you’re dealing with, whether they’re the sole supplier or whether there are multiple suppliers, things like that.
“We could go to Detroit and it would be 180 degrees different based on the demographics and characteristics of the community,” Campbell added.
The DEA’s value estimate of $3,000 for a single pot plant also takes into account the production costs of growing the weed, including the cost of labor, fertilizer and water, he said.
On the subject of where in Halifax County the plants were seized this weekend, Campbell was mum, noting only “this particular operation involved six or seven different locations in the county. Some of the locations were clustered together, but in individual gardens.”
Mature marijuana plants in Halifax County typically grow anywhere from 6 to 12 feet tall and yield 1-3 pounds of pot for sale on the street, although other varieties of pot plant are “more like an ornamental bush, they spread out rather than up,” said Campbell.
Campbell declined to provide information on pending arrests, noting that the investigation into Operation Greenthumb, as the raid was dubbed, is ongoing. The most serious drug charge that alleged participants will face is manufacture of marijuana, a felony, said Campbell. He said the operation appears to be geared towards supplying local dealers and pot purchasers, rather than part of a bigger operation.
Since announcing the haul, Campbell said he has heard “all kinds of wild stories” from people in reaction to the news, including from doubters who don’t believe the $1.872 million estimate is credible. He acknowledged one rumor — that police seized a single plant accounting for the entire value of the haul. “If it was one plant worth $1.8 million,” said Campbell, “that’s a plant I’d like to see.
“It’s like that game you play in school where you have something said at one end of the circle and by the time it gets around to your end, it’s totally different.”
The seized marijuana has been shipped to the state forensics lab to be preserved as evidence, and it will be destroyed after police and prosecutors wrap up the case, he said.
SoVaNow.com / July 14, 2010