The METRICH Enforcement Unit seized 316 marijuana plants worth potentially more than $300,000 in an eradication operation Tuesday throughout Richland County.

“If those plants had reached maturity, they’d be worth $1,000 a plant,” METRICH Commander Lt. Keith Porch said.

METRICH, with help from the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation and the Ohio Special Response Team, became children of the corn as they searched fields throughout Richland County. Marijuana growers often choose cornfields for places to plant. Such eradication efforts usually take place near harvest time.

The 316 marijuana plants were the most seized in Richland County in at least three years.
A pilot from BCI flew overhead in a helicopter borrowed from the Butler County Sheriff’s Office, directing authorities on the ground.

Surprisingly, the second biggest haul took place in a series of clearings near Cook and Trimble roads within Mansfield city limits. METRICH found 125 plants at that location.

“For the city limits, it’s definitely a decent outdoor grow,” Porch said. “We normally don’t come across that kind of plot in the city limits.”

Mansfield police Capt. Ken Coontz added such a find is unusual because of population density.

Authorities started searching in the Shelby area and quickly found 131 marijuana plants in a field off Champion Road, just west of Shelby.

Two other cornfields near Shelby did not prove as fruitful. One off Settlement East Road produced five marijuana plants, though METRICH Sgt. Joe Petrycki was impressed with the eagle-eyed pilot who spied them.

“I told you, they see everything,” he said to METRICH Detective Perry Wheeler as he entered the field with a machete.

As authorities planned to head to the northern portion of the county, Coontz made a courtesy call to Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard in case anyone reported a helicopter near the county line.

METRICH recovered 10 marijuana plants in a field off Kuhn Road. Coontz demonstrated the proper way to fend off cornstalks to a reporter who was not dressed for the occasion.

A member of the Ohio Special Response Team offered more advice.

“These will cut your lips like nothing,” he said.

Coontz said he appreciated the assistance of the Ohio Special Response Team, a group of civilian volunteers.

“They’ve made themselves available to work on projects where we need extra people,” he said.

METRICH didn’t spend much time in the northern part of the county after hearing from the pilot.

“It’s all beans around Plymouth,” he said.

Marijuana isn’t usually planted in soybean fields because it towers over the smaller plant.

After finding 125 plants in clearings within Mansfield city limits, the caravan headed south, where Coontz said he expected to find the most marijuana.

But that proved not to be the case, as three cornfields in the Bellville-Butler area yielded at most 16 marijuana plants.

Still, it was a successful day on the eradication front.

“There was a substantial amount of marijuana located within Richland County,” Wheeler said. “It will decrease the availability of the drug in our region.”

Last year’s eradication operation produced 146 marijuana plants, 170 fewer than Tuesday’s.
Porch said it’s often difficult to put a case together when marijuana is found in open fields, but he added he has some leads for possible charges.

The marijuana will be destroyed.

Originally published in the News Journal on August 7, 2013.