Last week Murfreesboro residents helped crack down a large drug operation. WGNS' Emily Kinzer has more on the story.
VERBATIM: The tips came from several concerned residents who led the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office Special Enforcement Bureau to the house of Jesse Duncan on 5916 Elam Road. Detectives found a room used entirely for a large and elaborate drug operation, more specifically hydroponic marijuana.They seized over 100 individual marijuana plants totaling a value of $131,000. Lead detective Mike Hoekstra is seeking indictments against Duncan for felony drug manufacturing and paraphernalia. Hydroponic growing houses are dangerous to users because they can cause electrical fires among other dangers. Although this was an illegal operation, the Special Enforcement Bureau is hoping that something good can come from it. They are collecting the growth system so it can be donated to the Rutherford County Schools' horticulture classes after the case is complete. Horticulture Instructor at Eagleville School Brian Lewis, says that this will help students learn different ways to produce foods when farmland is lost. Hydroponics is a method that allows for growing food year round, in controlled environments, typically in a greenhouse. Teaching this in class is expensive and can cost up to $5,000 but using seized growth equipment cuts the cost on the school system. Lewis says it makes for a valuable learning experience for students.
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Tips provided by multiple concerned citizens led Detective Mike Hoekstra and the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office Special Enforcement Bureau detectives to seize a sizeable indoor marijuana grow operation Wednesday at a Murfreesboro residence.
Sgt. Tony Hall with the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department said Detective Mike Hoekstra made contact with suspect Jesse Duncan of 5916 Elam Road and was given consent to search the residence. During the search, detectives discovered one room of the residence was devoted entirely to an elaborate hydroponic marijuana grow operation.
Detectives recovered 131 individual marijuana plants, valued at $131,000, in various stages of growth and development along with processed marijuana, Sgt. Hall said. Detective Hoekstra, the lead investigator, will seek indictments against Duncan for felony manufacturing of marijuana and paraphernalia charges from an upcoming grand jury.
The hydroponic grow system was dismantled and collected as evidence. The Special Enforcement Bureau is creating a system so that in cases such as this, the components utilized in the illegal grow operation can be donated to the Rutherford County Schools' horticulture classes after the case is completed.
Brian Lewis, the horticulture instructor at Eagleville School, said instructors are trying to teach students alternative methods of producing foods because of lost farmland. Using hydroponics is one of the methods.
"We're researching and showing students ways to produce food on less space and grow indoors in a greenhouse year round under controlled conditions," Lewis said.
Average costs of the components used in these classes can be in excess of $3,000 to $5,000 for a functioning hydroponic system. Using seized grow equipment will lessen the costs incurred by the school system, while teaching students valuable horticulture skills.
Lewis said hydroponic grow houses enable operators to cultivate marijuana plants with higher levels of THC than are typical of plants grown outdoors. Sophisticated hydroponic operations use little to no soil, simulate sunlight by utilizing high intensity lamps and incorporate irrigation systems of water and chemical fertilizers.
These operations are a danger to the occupants, neighbors of the residence, as well as the law enforcement officers tasked with dismantling them. Some of these dangers are caused by electrical issues. High intensity lighting is required for the operation and typically consists of complex wiring. Growers with little or no electrical background and training will oftentimes attempt to wire these systems themselves, which can easily lead to electrical fires, electrocution and a multitude of other hazards.
Additionally, numerous studies have shown that houses and other buildings used to cultivate Marijuana contain high levels of mold, including dangerous Stachybotrys mold.
Dr. John Martyny, a professor at National Jewish Health, was the primary researcher in a study designed to determine the health effects from indoor marijuana grow operations.
His research showed in residential and commercial structures it was difficult to control chemical contamination from pesticides and fertilizers. The study also showed that plant irrigation resulted in increased moisture that could damage building material, result in excessive mold growth and pose a risk of fire and electrocution.
The study shows that highly-elevated airborne levels of mold spores within these structures subjected occupants, emergency personnel and other individuals to significant potential health hazards. Potential health effects include hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic rhinitis, asthma and other respiratory diseases.
Another concern was elevated carbon dioxide levels which, if generated using fossil fuel combustion, can result in the production of carbon monoxide resulting in significant health effects, or death, to exposed individuals.