Yes, marijuana was growing in her garden, Lucille Ballard says.
But she blames the presence of the 130 cannabis plants on stormy weather, a mysterious hired hand and her compassion for things that grow out of the ground.
"I came home, and the police were saying to me, 'What's going on here?
You're growing a field of marijuana,' " said Ballard, a 55-year-old social worker. "I said, 'I just thought they were a bunch of weeds. I hated to kill them.' " Her problem is that the police don't believe her.
She was arrested and charged Monday with intent to distribute marijuana, after a county patrol officer investigating an attempted burglary at her Elkridge home found a thriving garden of string beans, squash, tomatoes, corn and, much to Ballard's chagrin, the 6-foot-tall stalks of harvested marijuana plants. She claims they were planted by someone who helped her plow the garden last spring.
Police say Ballard's home doesn't bear out the story of an innocent bystander.
Traces of marijuana were found in a refrigerator and an oven on Ballard's porch, and a small quantity of cocaine was recovered inside, police spokesman Gary L. Gardner said.
"We believe the marijuana had been grown to be harvested, processed and sold," Gardner said. "When we found the stalks, someone had already processed them. It doesn't take much to figure out what happened to them next."
Also found in the house were several High Times magazine -- a publication often read by marijuana enthusiasts -- and a photo album containing several pictures of the garden and marijuana plants in full bloom, Gardner said.
But Ballard said she had the pictures "because I was proud of my vegetables."
Also arrested at the home Monday afternoon were two Baltimore residents, Stephen and Kristine Vaise of the 4600 block of Prudence Street, who arrived in a pickup truck while police were executing a search warrant.
After questioning the Vaises, police say, they found two small plastic bags of marijuana underneath a baby sitting in a child car seat. Stephen Vaise, 36, and Kristine Vaise, 30, were each charged with possession of marijuana.
Ballard's home -- in the 6400 block of Elibank Drive and part of the stylish Lawyer's Hill Road suburb -- lies on a heavily wooded plot that is scarcely visible through the brush and trees.
Police say the stalks had been recently picked by someone who intended to use the marijuana -- approximately $1,500 worth -- for sale on the street.
Ballard, however, says she is a country lover who enjoys gardening and living the rural life. As to where the harvested leaves went, she can't offer an explanation.
The recent heavy rains caused the garden to become overgrown and Ballard says she wasn't paying much attention to it this fall. Whoever picked the marijuana leaves left the rest of her garden alone, and her harvest was good enough this year to give many of her friends extra bushels of vegetables, she said.
Three or four of the marijuana plants were left there last spring by a hired gardening helper, she says. In the following months, the vegetables in the garden flourished from the summer rain, and so did the "weeds" -- but Ballard said she didn't have the heart to pull them from the ground.
"They seemed to be getting rather overgrown, but it was a healthy rain season and I wanted to let them grow," Ballard said. "But I didn't think it was marijuana. I grow tomatoes, not marijuana."
Joyce McDonald, the owner of the nearby Shadowbrook Farm, says that Ballard has always been a good customer and had given her a basket of green beans recently in appreciation for all the animal manure she had bought at the farm.