TIFTON -- A local nursery and yard care business owner was arrested Friday and charged with growing marijuana by the Tift County Sheriff's Office.

Jason Alan Day, 38, of Tifton, was arrested after members of the Tift County Drug Enforcement Unit served a search warrant on his nursery on Ferry Lake Road. The deputies said they found 59 marijuana plants scattered all over the Day's Nursery property and also found 18 bags of pot.

"What is the most disturbing to me about this is that amount of marijuana being caught within this close of a school," said Tift County Sheriff Gary Vowell.

Day's Nursery is across the street from G.O. Bailey School. It is also situated between Emmanuel Baptist Church and a Tifton Police firing range. Vowell said that it was disturbing that someone was growing the illegal narcotic in the same area where children walk to school and that it showed no regard for the safety of the children in the area.

Chief Investigator Mike Walker said that the pot-growing operation also showed no respect to the people who attend church nearby.

"What's really disturbing about this, it's the second time we've gotten him at the same location growing marijuana at the same spot, basically the same amount," said Vowell.

Walker said Day was arrested and convicted around 2000 for growing marijuana at the nursery. The exact charges and sentence from that arrest were unavailable Friday.

Day was charged Friday with manufacturing marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and manufacturing marijuana within 1,000 feet of a public school.

The manufacturing marijuana in close proximity to a school zone charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. However, if Day was previously convicted of the same charge he could face a sentence of five to 40 years in prison and a maximum fine of $40,000. The other two charges carry a sentence of one to 10 years in prison each.

The 59 plants have an estimated street value of $1,000 each, so more than $59,000 worth of marijuana was seized. About a dozen of the mature plants were seven to eight feet tall. Other, smaller plants were about one or two feet tall.

Deputies had not weighed the 18 bags of marijuana as of Friday afternoon and did not have an estimated value for the contraband. The processed marijuana was held in various containers, mostly plastic bags, but there was also one jar containing the drugs. Some of the bags were only about the size of a standard sandwich bag but others were much larger.

Deputies also found sets of scales and grow lights at the nursery.

Trucks and other equipment located on the property displayed the Day's Nursery slogan -- "It's a Growing Thing."

To contact reporter Dusty Vassey, call 382-4321, ext. 208.

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