By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Twice a year, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI), conducts flyovers of the county to spot and eradicate marijuana plants.
They often find plants, but can rarely tie anyone to a particular grow. This year is different.
In the first flyover of the year, conducted the week of Sept. 8, officials found 115 plants growing in seven plots in different parts of the county.
“There will be criminal charges because we could identify some people involved based on location” and evidence at the growing sites, said Sheriff Jim Sabin. Evidence includes fingerprints on items such as water buckets and fertilizer containers.
The suspects will be charged with cultivating marijuana. The amount of marijuana involved in each case will determine whether the offense is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. Until charges are formally filed, Sabin is not divulging names of suspects or the exact locations of the plots.
“The plants are primarily found in corn fields because the growers can go in several rows so it’s not visible from the road. They cut down stands of corn to provide sunlight and transplant the marijuana in its place,” he said. “Farmers are unaware that these have been planted in their fields. It plugs up their combines because it’s so stemmy and stringy.”
Officials also find marijuana growing in brushy fields and wooded areas.
“It’s relatively easy to spot from the air. It’s unique looking because of the color,” Sabin said.
Because marijuana plants reach maturity at this time of year, the Sheriff’s Office and BCI will conduct a second flyover in the coming weeks. They target areas where plants are found every year as well as new spots based on tips.
Sabin said the discovery of 115 plants on the first flyover is about average compared to past years’ discoveries. He said he did not know if the plants found this year were being grown for personal use or for distribution. The state puts a street value of $1,000 on each mature plant.
Sabin encourages anyone with information about marijuana growing in the county, or any other illegal activity, to call the Sheriff’s Office at (740) 852-1212. Or leave an anonymous tip via the office’s website, www.madisonsheriff.org/. Look for the “Submit a Tip” button on the home page.