Marijuana plant seizures down in Ohio

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Seizures of marijuana plants during summer eradication efforts in Ohio were down this year as the illegal plants become harder to find, authorities said.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reported that authorities found more than 20,470 plants during the summer growing season in Ohio. That's a 76 percent decline from 2010, when authorities seized a record 84,660 plants in the annual effort.

Authorities tell The Dayton Daily News ( ) that outdoor seizures have declined as pot growers increasingly use sophisticated indoor grow operations, which are less easily detected by helicopters.

Scott Duff, special agent supervisor for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said the annual sweep of corn fields by air has had an impact on illicit growers.

"Now it is in small patches spread out; that's because of us," Duff told the newspaper.

In the past, it wasn't uncommon to find a plot of 500 to 700 plants, but now the more typical bust is for 10 to 30. The biggest this year was 200 plants, Duff said.

Statewide, Adams and Meigs counties in southeast Ohio had the most plants discovered: 1,846 and 1,642.

For indoor operations, authorities often rely on tips, Duff said. They need warrants to check electric usage or to deploy thermal imagers to determine if there is an unusual amount of heat emanating from a property.

Arrests stemming from the efforts are few. In all of last year, the DEA reported that just 27 people were charged in Ohio as a result of marijuana raids funded through a federal program. Authorities say that when they find the pot fields, the growers typically are not around.

Removal of the plants came at the hands of sheriff's deputies in multiple counties, with support from agents from the Ohio Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The state uses a federal grant to pay for helicopters, pilots, supplies and administrative costs, while county sheriffs provide ground support.

Most of the $500,000 in federal marijuana eradication money spent last year in Ohio went to pay for helicopters and pilots. Funding was down by $50,000 compared with 2011.