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$10 million marijuana crop found growing on South Side

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Updated: November 5, 2012 11:33AM

The lush crop of pale green plants growing in neat rows on the far South Side was, by one estimate, just days from being ready to harvest.

Unfortunately for the grower, Chicago Police got there first — and spent Wednesday hacking away at what’s thought to be among the city’s largest marijuana operations discovered growing outdoors.

The crop, spotted by a Cook County sheriff’s officer on a routine helicopter patrol Tuesday, might be worth as much as $10 million on the street, police said.

The plants — some as tall as 10 feet high — sprouted up in the middle of unused industrial land along the 10600 block of South Stony Island, thick with brush and tall grass.

“It’s surrounded by tall grass, and basically it’s a huge field you wouldn’t see anywhere but from the air,” Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy told reporters Wednesday. Police estimated the growing area to be about the size of two football fields.

Even Cook County Sheriff’s Officer Ed Graney admitted that luck played a big part in him spying the plants from 1,000 feet in the air.

“I may not have noticed it myself, except I happened to glance down at the right time,” Graney said.

Graney, working with Chicago Police pilot Stan Kuprianczyk, said he spotted half a dozen plants from the air, but it wasn’t until police tramped through the brush that they found more than 1,000 marijuana plants.

Police were still trying to figure out Wednesday who owned the land and were investigating who might have planted the crop, probably last spring. A man — a lookout — was seen fleeing the area when police arrived. The lookout left behind a sleeping bag, some fresh food and other camping gear, police said.

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