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Pot uncovered: Police seeking suspects in growing operation

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Thousands of motorists drive by an eastside Franklin building every day, where a traffic stop helped police uncover and shut down a large, sophisticated marijuana growing operation.

Franklin and Indiana State Police officers removed nearly 400 marijuana plants, took down expensive light fixtures used for growing and dismantled a complex irrigation system in a building at the northeast corner of Hurricane Road and Eastview Drive.

Police have talked to the man who had been renting the building since October 2012 and are trying to find anyone else who was involved in the growing operation, Franklin Police Chief Tim O’Sullivan said. No charges have been filed, and no one has been arrested.

Police aren’t yet sure how many people were involved in growing the marijuana, how long the plants have been growing in the building, or where the pot was going after the plants were grown, dried and weighed for sale, O’Sullivan said. The chief is asking the public to call with any tips about the site or people who may have been involved in growing, selling or buying the drug.

The marijuana bust is the second-largest drug bust made by Franklin police in the past three months. Officers raided and shut down a downtown gas station in December after a two-year investigation showed employees were selling synthetic marijuana, also known as Spice, from the shop.

What officers found at the eastside industrial building was the biggest marijuana operation found in Franklin since O’Sullivan was hired as an officer for the city 17 years ago.

Asking for tips

Police are asking anyone who might know about the building, growing operation or people who might be connected to contact the city narcotics division at 346-1107.

“It was a full-time operation and was very extensive. They had very expensive growing lights and a very detailed irrigation system,” he said.

The group growing the weed was foiled by an exterior vent on the building.

A Franklin officer stopped a car at the intersection at 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 22. The vehicle pulled up next to the west side of the building, which is about 20 feet off the road. When the officer got out of the car, he could smell marijuana but determined it wasn’t coming from the car he had stopped, O’Sullivan said.

Police discovered the smell was coming from a vent in the wall of the nearby building, got a search warrant and went inside.

They found 388 marijuana plants, worth a total of about $115,000, growing lights that cost around $2,000 each and a sophisticated irrigation system to keep the plants watered, O’Sullivan said. The people running the operation didn’t invest in any type of security, such as cameras or alarms, that police could find. The door was locked and reinforced with a wooden board when police broke in, he said.

Several officers and SWAT team members entered the building because they weren’t sure who might be inside and if they were armed. No one was there when police raided the building.

Police aren’t sure how long people had been growing marijuana in the building, he said. Police officers drive by that building hundreds of times each month but didn’t know there was marijuana inside until the traffic stop.

The intersection is a high-traffic area near the city’s industrial park and a local golf course, and next door to a grain bin, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said. But it looks like any other vacant building in the city and any smells coming out of the vent may have been masked by the nearby grain bin and frequent truck traffic, he said.

Police had not received any calls about suspicious activity at the site, O’Sullivan said.

“It looks like a rundown business. You would not suspect anything of that magnitude inside there. Maybe some sort of storage or scrap metal,” McGuinness said.

The building has been leased since October 2012 and police have already talked to the renter, O’Sullivan said. The owners of the building and the property are not believed to be involved in the growing operation, he said.

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