Google "Mexico" and "marijuana" this morning and you'll find many headlines informing you that Mexican soldiers have discovered the country's "biggest" or "largest" marijuana plantation ever in the remote Baja California desert, across the border from San Diego. But look a little closer and you'll see other news outlets hedging; AFP puts 'largest' in quotes, for instance, while The Wall Street Journal goes with the phrase 'large marijuana farm.' Why the discrepancy?
It's rather complicated. The Mexican army says the 300-acre plantation, which can produce 120 tons of pot worth an estimated $160 million, is the largest in Mexican history and four times the size of the previous record-holder, the "El Bufalo" ranch in northern Chihuahua state that authorities discovered in 1984, according to the AP (AFP, quoting the military, identifies the previous record-holder as an 158-acre farm in the state of Sinaloa uncovered in 2007.) Experts like Alberto Islas, however, are casting doubt on the military's claims, arguing that the Bufalo farm was much bigger than the Baja field. Mexican press reports claim El Bufalo was 1,344 acres and contained anywhere from 2,500 to 6,000 tons of marijuana worth somewhere between $3.2 billion and $8 billion in today's prices, The Journal notes. Islas tells the paper that the Mexican army could be exaggerating the size of yesterday's bust to boost morale as Mexican's violent drug war drags on. A Mexican official, meanwhile, explains that the Bufalo plantation was a series of 13 different fields and the Baja plantation was bigger than any individual Bufalo field. Ah, the difficulty in measuring marijuana plantations.
The plantation, pictured in the aerial shot above, was hidden by a black screen and tomato stalks and included a "sophisticated system of piped-in irrigation to support the plants," the tallest of which were nearly eight feet, according to the AP. CNN gives us a sense of the farm's proportions, noting that the field is 168 times larger than the soccer field in Mexico City's Azteca Stadium. Mexico, the world's biggest producer of marijuana, has detained several people in connection with the bust and will destroy the Baja plantation by burning the pot plants. In this Reuters photo, a helicopter flies over the vast fields:
Here Mexican soldiers walk under the black tarp:
And here, in case you're interested, are the plantation's bathrooms:
The Telegraph and Reuters have video of the plantation and a press conference by authorities:
Update: For those asking about the process of destroying the plantation, Reuters has pictures of the destruction yesterday: