Local law officers are hunting for marijuana, and they're willing to strike a deal for it.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Drug Enforcement Unit and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation have asked the Douglas County sheriff's office and county residents to help identify where wild marijuana is growing. The county then will spray a weed-killing herbicide on the plants, free of charge.
"There are several thousand acres of marijuana that they want to eradicate" in Kansas, said Dave Leuty, noxious weed director for Douglas County. Leuty said that Douglas County is one of 13 counties in Kansas involved in a campaign to get rid of wild marijuana.
Douglas County Sheriff Loren Anderson said the agencies are working with the public to eradicate marijuana, especially in rural areas where the plant grows wild.
"THAT'S WHERE the bulk of the wild stuff is or ditch weed as the druggies call it," he said.
Anderson said he and other officials want to set up a proactive plan that will rid the county of marijuana plants.
"If we can remove the marijuana then obviously we're not going to have the harvesting. That's the idea," he said.
Anderson said he's seen people from as far away as New York and Florida come to Douglas County to pick marijuana.
Leuty said the Kansas marijuana often is used in combination with more potent marijuana.
"What they (marijuana harvesters) do is take the wild stuff back to California or Florida . . . and use it as a filler with the expensive stuff," Leuty said.
In areas such as the South, where marijuana traditionally has been abundant, Anderson said the sheriff's office has "heard that the availability is drastically down in those areas."
"And now all of the sudden it's (wild marijuana) valuable stuff," Anderson said.
THE DITCH weed "had little value" three years ago, but Anderson said he had learned that Kansas marijuana was bringing as much as $300 a pound.
No estimates are available on the cost of the eradication project. Douglas County initially will pay the costs, but will be reimbursed by the federal government for the herbicide, equipment and equipment expenses, Leuty said.
He said the Douglas County Public Works Department will spray the 2-4-D, which is a herbicide used to kill broad leaf vegetation.
Anderson said officials would like to begin spraying as soon as possible to get rid of as much marijuana as possible by the time harvest begins, which traditionally is the middle to end of August. Spraying should conclude by the first frost, sometime in late September or early October.
Officials are encouraging residents to alert them about areas where marijuana is abundant.
Anderson said officials would notify the property owner, who would be asked to sign a spraying agreement.