Effects of confiscated pot linger at Sunset Beach Town Hall

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

Three years ago this past Christmas Eve, Sunset Beach police made what was believed to be the biggest marijuana bust and haul in the town’s history.

On Christmas Eve 2010, during a seemingly routine traffic stop of a Lincoln Continental speeding through town, Sunset Beach police got a whiff of something funny and followed up with a consent to search the vehicle.

Here’s a suggestion: If you’re going to speed, don’t carry something funny in your car. Or if you’re going to carry something funny in your car, don’t speed. Best idea of all: Don’t do either one.

Inside the trunk of the detained car, officers found seven pounds of vacuum-sealed pot in 14 separate bags. A subsequent search at a half-million-dollar vacation house on the Sunset Beach island led to discovery of an additional 25 pounds of weed, plus 26 small pot plants being cultivated in plastic cups, a grow light and heater, and drug paraphernalia.

The potted-pot find brought charges of felony possession with intent to manufacture/sell/deliver and felony trafficking of a schedule VI substance (more commonly known by the scientific terms “marijuana” and “wacky tabacky”) against Howard Jason Harris of Burlington.

To the best of local police officials’ knowledge, 32 pounds marked the largest cannabis bust in town history.

In keeping with standard procedure, Sunset Beach police took custody of the multi-pounds of pot, which had an estimated street value of a quarter-million dollars.

Thanks to ventilation issues, during those first months of storage, the aroma of unlit pot permeated town hall like a ticked-off skunk.

It just recently came to light the pot is still in police custody.

For the past couple of years while covering town hall, I no longer noticed its aroma. Maybe I’d just gotten used to it.

During a discussion about town hall space issues at a council work session this past Dec. 12, architectural consultant Keith Carlyon with ADW Architects of Charlotte cited ongoing problems with adequate ventilation for the confiscated marijuana.

Now that the case has been adjudicated (Harris was found guilty), Sunset Beach Police Detective Joe Smith said the pot still needs to be destroyed.

Smith added the department is ready to dispose of it “because we’re tired of smelling it.”

Depending on the day, barometric pressure and/or humidity level, Smith said the pot smell can still be detected.

All that remains is doing the proper paperwork to roll that pot out of town for good and have it properly incinerated by the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office.

As for one previous suggestion that the pot could be put to good use for medicinal purposes, Smith says that’s an iffy proposition.

“There’s no way that would be allowed,” he said, pointing out there’s no way to ensure the quality of the pot or its proper regulation. Oh, and it’s still illegal in North Carolina.

In the coming new year, Smith foresees one way or the other, the pot will eventually go up in smoke — compliments of the BCSO.


Laura Lewis is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at (910) 754-6890 or llewis@brunswickbeacon.com