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No pot plants found in field flyover effort

By BRIAN BOHNERT and MORGAN MANNS
STAFF WRITERS

For the first time since at least the 1990s, no marijuana plants were found during a Seneca County drug flyover project.
According to Seneca County Det. Sgt. Don Joseph, it was the first time in the 15 years he has been working this project that not a single pot plant was found. The average amount confiscated is roughly 300 plants per year, he said.
“It’s very unusual to not find at least a few (plants),” he said, adding that he’s unsure what the reasons are for the sudden decrease in numbers. “It could be a sign of drug trends. Maybe marijuana isn’t as popular as it once was.”
The initiative, put on yearly by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI&I), enlisted law enforcement personnel from the Seneca County Drug Task Force–METRICH Enforcement Agency and Seneca County Sheriff’s Office and officers from Fostoria, Bettsville, Tiffin, Bloomville and Green Springs police departments.
Officers canvassed various corn and bean fields and along wooded areas for roughly eight hours, covering the county’s 550 square miles. A trained spotter circled above in a Butler County Sheriff’s Office helicopter using intelligence gathered from citizen complaints and a tip line, directing the foot patrol to suspicious locations.
“From the air it looks like holes in the fields,” Joseph said. “They spot it from the air and give us probable cause to go in. It’s a joint effort to investigate the possible cultivation.”
The estimated street value of the mature plant is $1,000 per plant, according to Joseph, with each plant producing about one pound of smokable marijuana. However, most confiscated plants aren’t yet mature.
When plants are found and identification is made, the plants are confiscated and stored at the Seneca County Sheriff’s Office until METRICH obtains a court order for destruction and incinerates them.
While the annual sweeps usually yield larger discoveries, Joseph said the efforts seldom lead to charges being filed because prosecutors would have the difficult task of proving cultivation.
The accomplishment, however, lies in cutting pot dealers off at the source, he said.
“I think it’s important if we can locate it, that we seize it and destroy it,” Joseph said. “We keep it from getting into the hands of those who would abuse it. That’s the objective.”

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