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Published: Saturday, 7/29/2006

Copter helps Ottawa County find 221 marijuana plants

PORT CLINTON - Ottawa County authorities cashed in on an early harvest yesterday, uprooting 221 marijuana plants discovered from a police helicopter as part of a statewide eradication program with law enforcement officers.

"We haven't seen this many plants in years," said Don St. Clair, an agent with the Ottawa County Drug Task Force. "It's a pretty large haul. We are quite honestly shocked by the number of plants we've pulled."

If the harvested plants had grown to maturity by the end of summer, they would be worth $221,000, based on an average weight of 2 pounds per plant that's worth $1,000 on the street, he said.

The harvest included 130 plants just east of Port Clinton, 35 on Portage River South Road, and 56 plants near State Rt. 105 at Stange Road, both in Harrison Township.

In Ottawa County, the street price of marijuana purchased during sting operations is higher than other areas, he said, although he's not certain why.

"We laughingly refer to it as the Ottawa County markup," Mr. St. Clair said.

A helicopter, pilot, and spotter for the operation over Ottawa County were provided by the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, with local law enforcement agents stationed on the ground to go to the locations identified from the air.

About a half dozen people were involved in the operation, which began in the morning and lasted through early evening.

No arrests were made, although one plant found at the edge of a yard may yield a suspect, he said. He said another flight over the county was possible later this year.

BCI is conducting similar searches in other counties and yesterday was Ottawa County's turn to receive state help, Mr. St. Clair said.

Most of the plants were found in scrub areas, but the property owners where some of the plants were found had no idea the marijuana was growing there, he said.

"The cultivators don't want to plant it on their own property because you'd be subject to forfeiture of the property," Mr. St. Clair said.

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