State Police confiscating marijuana
August 7, 2012 ·
It's the time of year when the West Virginia State Police are using helicopters to conduct outdoor marijuana searches. Drought conditions are affecting the amount of plants they are finding.
The West Virginia State Police do their most aggressive searches during the growing season between the months of May through October.
Sgt. Michael Smith with the State Police is the chief of the marijuana eradication program.
He says the police rely a lot on citizens for tips on where to find the plants.
"We get a lot from hunters, people rabbit hunting who run across outdoor grows or the remnants of outdoor grows. We also have turkey hunters that call in and tell us where the marijuana plants are," he said.
"Generally the marijuana that is planted is planted on someone else’s land; they won’t plant on their own. We get a lot of tips from the public."
This year, the State Police have confiscated about 15,000 marijuana plants so far, and made about 125 arrests.
These include both outdoor and indoor plants.
It’s a bit tricky to calculate how much money it is all worth, because Smith says indoor plants typically are worth more.
"They produce a higher grate of marijuana, the THC content is going to be higher in indoor grows. An outdoor plant which is generally going to the cannabis sativa strain, that plant will grown to 12 to 14 feet tall and if it meets its full maturity in the fall, that plant will get about $2,500 a piece," Smith said.
Drought conditions have affected the state’s crop this year, and Smith says that’s affected the number of plants his task force has found.
"Generally it comes back to, if you’re garden, if somebody’s outside garden does really good in a year, and you have a good garden year, that’s basically the same thing with marijuana," Smith said.
"We’ve had a tough gardening year this year, so I don’t expect our numbers to be really, super, high, because weather conditions were less than ideal I should say."
The program faces challenges when doing this kind of work.
They have to multi-task; everyone wears several hats. Smith explains.
"We don’t have a full time group of people that does nothing but marijuana. I’m working with a trooper today who was just working the road last night, and will probably go back to work this evening after he gets done cutting marijuana. We grab a trooper off detachment or we grab an investigator and we just go out, just like any other complaint that comes in," he said.
Another issue Smith worries about is officer safety when conducting outdoor searches.
He says fortunately there haven’t been any injuries during searches this year.