Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies confiscated more than $1.5 billion worth of marijuana this year in Appalachia, a region where widespread unemployment may be enticing some people to grow pot to support their families.
Ed Shemelya, head of marijuana eradication in the Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, said aerial spotters guided ground crews to more than 750,000 plants during the 2012 growing season in the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Shemelya said nearly 430,000 of the marijuana plants were found in Kentucky. Preliminary figures showed more than 192,000 plants confiscated in West Virginia and more than 147,000 in Tennessee.
The Appalachian region, a haven for moonshiners during Prohibition, has a near-perfect climate for marijuana cultivation, plus remote forests that help growers camouflage their crops.