Kansas Bureau of Investigation authorities and Reno County law enforcement officers have seized 3,000 marijuana plants that had been cultivated and found growing near Haven, about 35 miles northwest of Wichita.
The plants are estimated at $1,000 apiece and could yield about 1 pound of marijuana each, according to Reno County officials. The marijuana stalks were 12 to 14 feet tall and believed to have been planted around late April or early May.
Authorities were alerted to the cultivated plants on Friday after two people clearing areas for deer stands came across the plants. The area was a half-mile north of the Arkansas River and four miles north of Haven, Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson said Monday.
Authorities think the people growing the marijuana may be from Mexico, he said.
"There was evidence, of religious articles of a patron saint recovered at the scene," Henderson said in a news release.
The plants were not native to Kansas. It appears the suspects brought their own seeds and began growing them — taking great time and care with the plants. By doing so, Henderson said, the marijuana did not need to be smuggled across the border.
Authorities found some plants on wooden drying tables made from tree limbs.
Evidence at the scene included two tents, sleeping mats, tables and stools made from tree limbs found in the area. The area was also strewn with tortillas, limes, onions and beer containers.
The suspects had their own camping stove and had dug a hole in the ground —deep enough and close enough to the Arkansas River to supply water to the site and help irrigate the plants. In fact, the well had stairs.
October is often a prime month for marijuana as efforts are made to harvest the plants before the first freeze, Henderson said.
Public safety is of prime concern, particularly along the back roads of Kansas — and, the Reno County sheriff encourages people to use caution.
"No suspects have been located. However, with farmers and hunters moving into fields, the possibility of running upon these suspects is greater," Henderson said.