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MAHONING COUNTY Search turns up 40 pot plants



Published: Wed, August 15, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Smoking one marijuana cigarette has the same health risks as smoking 10 to 15 tobacco cigarettes, a drug addiction specialist said.

By JOANNE VIVIANO

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

State and local officials have discovered $40,000 worth of marijuana plants growing in rural Mahoning County areas.

Forty plants, with a street value of $1,000 each, were found during an overhead search that teamed helicopter pilots from the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation with members of the Mahoning Valley Drug Task Force, said Bret Crow, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office.

Plants were found in Jackson, Milton and Ellsworth townships, said Jackson Township Police Chief Orrin Hill.

David Allen, task force commander, said the bureau assists the task force in finding plants that would otherwise remain obscured.

"It's extremely important for us to keep that situation under control," Allen said. "Where it's very rural, it's hard to locate plants from the street."

Where they were found: Hill said at least 14 of the plants were found in his township, in a field that surrounds railroad tracks running between Mahoning Avenue and Silica Road.

In Milton Township, 22 plants were found in a field on northeast River Road near the Lake Milton dam, he said. In Ellsworth, plants were found in a cornfield off Calla Road. Investigations continue to determine who owns the plants.

Hill said the project has "definitely taken a bite" out of marijuana sales in the community. Although younger people are using it a lot, he said, adults are using it as well.

The Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation is a division of the attorney general's office. Crow said the bureau's Marijuana Eradication Unit assists sheriff's departments and drug task forces throughout the state from July to October.

After searching 44 counties this year, officials found more than 16,000 plants, with a value of nearly $16.7 million.

Officials unearthed 74 plants in Trumbull County. In Columbiana Country, 63 plants were discovered.

The plants are destroyed if there are no criminal suspects linked to them, Crow said. If police are investigating a criminal case, the plants are kept as evidence.

Preventing other drug use: Curbing marijuana use can prevent the use of more serious drugs, said Carol LaVallee, quality assurance coordinator at the Mahoning County Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board.

A tendency among marijuana users is to move on to other drugs, she said, with marijuana users being 104 times more likely to use other drugs than nonusers. Young people who use marijuana are often exposed to people who are users and sellers of other drugs.

Marijuana comes with a slew of its own health risks, she added, including increasing the risk of emphysema. Smoking one marijuana cigarette is akin to smoking 10 to 15 tobacco cigarettes.

A person who smokes five marijuana cigarettes a week does as much health damage as a person who smokes a pack of tobacco cigarettes each day, LaVallee said.

Today, marijuana contains more THC, its primary intoxicant, than marijuana of the past, LaVallee said. As such, it is more addictive.

Users are more susceptible to chest colds and lung infections and may suffer damage to immune system cells and tissue that protect from disease. Long-term, chronic users often suffer panic attacks and anxiety.

"A lot of people think marijuana is no big deal, but it is," she said.




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