Large illegal grow in Elk Creek

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By Robin Bass

Acting on an anonymous tip, local and state police converged on a quiet Elk Creek subdivision early Monday morning in search of an illegal plant growing operation.

What they found was a relatively small amount of marijuana in various stages of growth with an estimated street value of $26,000 and a much larger hallucinogenic mushroom supply worth approximately $100,000.

“This is the first time in my 21 years that we’ve dealt with mushrooms here,” said Spencer County Sheriff Steve Coulter.

Homeowner Barbara Smith, of 175 Allen Place North Dr., was reportedly cooperative with police. As of Tuesday afternoon, no one had been charged with a crime. Coulter said that arrests are pending following further investigation.

Smith told police that she lives in the home with her 32-year-old son, who was not in the residence at the time police arrived to serve a search warrant.

Officers in charge of collecting evidence from the home used respirators after discovering paper masks in the home. Coulter said that  the extra precautions were taken to prevent inhaling the mold spores. He said that neighbors are in no danger of inhaling the substances.

“There is a smell,” said Coulter of the mushrooms found growing in the home’s basement. “But it’s nothing like the smell of marijuana.”

After 12 hours collecting evidence and interviewing the homeowner, Coulter said that about 80 pounds of mushrooms were later taken to a Louisville landfill and buried by a bulldozer.

With the recent discovery of an alleged cocaine operation leader living in The Seasons and now another illegal drug operation discovered in Allen Place North, Coulter was questioned whether other neighborhoods had similar activity.

“That seems to be a trend,” said Coulter. “They think they are more concealed in a neighborhood.”

The sheriff said that residents can spot illegal activity if they know what to look for. Coulter said simple actions, like a high traffic volume visiting a home or strange smells could be a clue. But he also said that people that are loners and have no friends in the neighborhood could also be potential suspects of criminal activity.

Coulter said that residents should not feel uncomfortable about reporting suspicious activity to the police.

If anyone has information about this or any other alleged crime in the county, they are encouraged to contact the Spencer County Sheriff’s office at 477-3200.

Hallucinogenic mushrooms look similar to other edible and poisonous varieties, however when this fungi is ingested, the user experiences a psychedelic-effect. Proponents consider mushrooms as a soft drug with a low potential for abuse, very low toxicity, and no risk of addiction. Side effects include increase of heart rate, numbness of the mouth, nausea, elevated blood pressure, weakness in the limbs, vision irregularities, paranoia and pupil dilation.

The Spencer County Sheriff’s Department was assisted by the Kentucky State Police Drug Task Force during this investigation.