The Lake County Narcotics Agency donated thousands of dollars worth of plant growing equipment on March 3 to the Holden Arboretum in Kirtland.

The equipment included numerous light assemblies, bulbs and ballasts, which help regulate the electricity going out to the various lights and was worth between $2,000 to $3,000. The Narcotics Agency seized the equipment from an illegal 60-plant marijuana grow operation in Madison Township about a year and a half ago, said Special Agent 88, who will not be identified by name.

“We’ve had 100 plant growths, we’ve had larger growths as well,” the agent said. “These are actually what the marijuana growers use to grow the actual plant itself. These are like a pseudo-sunlight source.”

These particular bulbs were about 300 watts, but the agency has seized bulbs as large as 1,000 watts in the past. The agency also has to wait for the prosecution to be completed and for a judgment entry from the court before it can destroy or donate the evidence, the agent said.

About two years ago, after the agency busted a different marijuana operation, Special Agent 88 thought he could put the seized equipment to good use as opposed to simply destroying it. He researched the Holden Arboretum and they gladly accepted the equipment.

“We’re able to use the grow lights to extend our day length in the winter, fall and spring,” said Greg Wright, nursery supervisor at the Holden Arboretum. A researcher will use these grow lights to help complete a research project, Wright said.

“This allows us to have healthier plants and to really get a jump start on the growing season,” he said. “If we want to, we could really grow all year round.”

To Special Agent 88, this is a great way to complete the law enforcement mission to protect and serve. “This is part of the service part, where we can actually approach the businesses, or the centers of education, or our research facilities so we can actually turn something that was illegal… and transformed that, so to speak, and actually gave it to somebody that can use it for good,” he said.

The ability to repurpose this type of evidence is also unique to marijuana. If a methamphetamine lab is broken up, that used equipment is hazardous and needs to be disposed of properly, the agent said.

“You use the same type of equipment to grow a tomato, to grow a potato, to grow a tree,” he said. “To buy this equipment is perfectly legal. It’s what you do with it that makes it illegal.”

By Matt Skrajner, The News-Herald Posted: 03/03/15, 3:09 PM EST