On Tuesday, Pilot Edward Graney was flying over the South Side of Chicago after a training drill with the Cook County Sheriff’s department when he noticed something odd.
Standing out from the native flora below him were “five rows of plants, [in] straight line configuration” that “didn’t look normal for wild growth,” he told CBS Chicago.
The domesticated plot turned out to be a marijuana field containing more than 1,500 cannabis plants — some as tall as Christmas trees — that spanned the area of two football fields. The plot, located at 107 Street and Stony Island, near the Harborside International Golf Center, was concealed from the street by wildflowers. The marijuana plants were days away from harvest, and authorities estimated their value at as much as $10 million, according to the Associated Press.
“This would be one of the biggest [discoveries] in recent years,” Lieutenant Michael Ryle, part of the Chicago Police Narcotics Unit, told CBS Chicago.
Although authorities have yet to arrest anyone, a city truck driver told WBBM Newsradio he called the police after he spotted a man running from the plot when the helicopter arrived. CBS Chicago reported authorities also found a tarp, Cheetos, orange soda and a sleeping bag at the field, which they believe belong to a person who had been guarding it. Police will use DNA testing and other measures to identify the individual.
Sanitation workers with bulldozers and dump trucks chopped down the plants and transported them to government property on the lakefront for a controlled burn Wednesday morning, WGN News reported.
The plot is the largest marijuana field discovered in Chicago, according to WGN, but this growth pales in comparison to other farms uncovered on the continent. In early August, East Texas ABC affiliate KTRE reported that authorities found a 675-acre plantation in nearby Polk County, Tex. Across the border from San Diego, in Baja California, Mexican soldiers revealed in 2011 what some deemed the largest pot farm in the country’s history.