Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Appalachian states have seen an increase in marijuana production, and the federal government's man in charge of eradication says a sour economy may have turned some people in need of cash to the clandestine crop.

Ed Shemelya, head of marijuana eradication for the Office of National Drug Control Policy's Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, said helicopter spotters and ground crews found and cut more than 1.1 million plants worth in excess of $2 billion in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia during the 2011 growing season. That was an increase of more than 100,000 plants over 2010.

Shemelya said authorities confiscated 550,000 plants in Tennessee, 385,000 in Kentucky and 185,000 in West Virginia. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates the street value of an average mature plant at $2,000.

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