An Ocracoke man has been arrested on federal charges for growing weed among the sea oats inside the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
The U.S Attorney’s office for North Carolina’s Eastern District in Raleigh said in a release that James Daniel Garrish III was arrested Tuesday and charged with cultivating marijuana on federal property. If convicted, he would face a maximum term of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a term of up to three years of supervised release, the statement said.
Garrish also was charged with introducing plants into the park ecosystem, littering, trespassing, and defacing and damaging real property. Each charge carries a potential penalty of up to six months’ imprisonment, a $5,000 fine, up to one year supervised release, and/or up to 5 years’ probation.
U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon said in the release, “Criminal acts which blemish the beauty of our public seashore and the safety of its visitors will not be ignored.”
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Ocracoke Island, off Hyde County, is home to Ocracoke Village, a former fishing settlement turned busy summer tourist destination. Beyond the village lie miles of secluded beaches that are part of the seashore, managed by the National Park Service. Often, the island’s beaches are populated by more shore birds and wild ponies than people.
The relative remoteness of the island has invited illicit behavior for centuries.
Blackbeard, the pirate, is said to have had a favorite anchorage off the island’s south end and had a pirate party on the point in October 1718. In more recent decades, National Park Service rangers have had to remind sunbathers that despite urban legends, there are no stretches of beach where nudity is legal.
The indictment in the case indicates the marijuana was planted in August and September 2017 in a wooded area adjacent to a commercial fishing site off N.C. 12 on Ocracoke Island known as Quork Hammock. The indictments says the area is not open to the public except by express permission of the national seashore superintendent, and that the culprit dug up plants in the area and left holes unfilled.
The Cape Hatteras National Seashore extends 70 miles from Ocracoke Island to Bodie Island.