ASHTABULA COUNTY Task force uproots 2,000 marijuana plants



About $4 million worth of marijuana will now never reach buyers.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WILLIAMSFIELD -- Local law enforcement officials say they have reaped record numbers of pot plants this year, despite budget cutbacks and the elimination of state-sponsored recognizance flights.
Deputy sheriffs with a joint Trumbull, Ashtabula and Geauga counties anti-drug task force uprooted 2,000 marijuana plants Thursday, hidden deep in cornfields in southern Ashtabula County.
The raid comes on top of a seizure of 400 plants from a Kinsman field Friday and several seizures totaling about 2,000 plants in Kinsman and Gustavus earlier in August.
Total value of the plants taken so far this season is about $4 million, more than officials remember ever seizing in the past.
"In my 28 years, I've never seen a seizure this large," said Geauga County Sheriff Dan McClelland, at a press conference in front of the latest load of confiscated plants.
He said investigations into responsibility for the fields continues. No arrests have been made in any of the cases this season.
The landowners are not involved, he said.
How it works
Marijuana growers typically start their plants indoors, then move them deep into remote cornfields, where they can't be seen from the road.
The pot plants grow with the corn.
Legitimate farmers typically don't visit corn for months before harvest, officials say. The pot grower just has to harvest his plants before the corn is taken in.
The bumper crop seized by deputy sheriffs this year came despite layoffs of road deputies in Trumbull County and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation's elimination of regular flights.
The Trumbull, Ashtabula and Geauga Law Enforcement Task Force -- an outgrowth of the counties' drug task force -- relied on volunteer pilots in private planes to help them find the plants seized this week.
"Our goal is to get rid of it and keep it out of the hands of school kids," said Trumbull County Sheriff Thomas Altiere.
From the air, marijuana appears a brighter green than surrounding corn.
The volunteer spotting flights will continue, officials say.

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