BY GINA KINSLOW firstname.lastname@example.org
GLASGOW — The growing season for marijuana is about to come to an end in Kentucky.
Marijuana cultivation season begins in mid-spring and lasts until the first frost, which means law enforcement agencies such as the Barren River Drug Task Force and the Kentucky State Police are busy during that time working to eradicate marijuana from the area.
The KSP partners with the Kentucky National Guard, as well as local law enforcement agencies to eradicate marijuana.
The KSP worked with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, the Tompkinsville Police Department and the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department on Monday to destroy a large marijuana find consisting of about 5,600 plants in the Mill Creek area of Monroe County.
"This is the biggest (find) I’ve ever encountered in my life in my history of law enforcement," said Monroe County Sheriff Dale "Frog" Ford.
No arrests have been made in conjunction with the marijuana find, but Ford said the case is under investigation by the KSP.
The large marijuana find in Monroe County is an example of how the KSP works with local law enforcement agencies in eradicating marijuana.
The KSP works to cover the entire state during marijuana cultivation season.
“We will have different teams stationed in different regions of the state,” said Trooper B.J. Eaton, public affairs officer for the KSP in Bowling Green. “It’s kind of a fluid, dynamic group. They just move to where they feel the potential to find it is the highest.”
The KSP is able to locate marijuana grows by air and land.
“Throughout the whole cultivating season we attempt to spot and locate the marijuana that is being cultivated and we move those teams in,” he said, adding that if the marijuana is not in a location that is easily reached by a land eradication team, an air eradication team will repel down from a helicopter to the area, cut down the marijuana and dispose of it.
Marijuana is something that can be spotted easily from a helicopter.
“It is very distinct from the air from its color,” he said. “It is kind of a darker green.”
Sometimes it is easy for the eradication teams to locate the marijuana from the air because it is in the process of being cultivated, with the area around it having been worn away due to people coming in to care for it as it grows, he said.
The drug task force also goes out searching for marijuana plants growing in its coverage area, and like the KSP, it also receives tips to help locate some of the marijuana grows. Some eradications have been indoor grows.
“The tips that we’ve had this year have been good,” said Ron Lafferty, director of the drug task force. “We haven’t had no where as many tips as we had last year.”
The largest marijuana find the drug task force has eradicated this year has been only eight plants.
“We had several small ones like two or four (plants),” Lafferty said. “Last year, there was 350 in one place.”
Marijuana can be found in some of most unlikely places.
“We found it behind residences where a small wooded area has been cut-out,” he said. “We have found it in corn fields. We have found it next to streams or rivers, in people’s backyards; planted in tall grass where (the plants) can’t be seen (and) in-between hay stacks.”
As for indoor marijuana grows, Lafferty said they have been found in basements, additional mobile homes on properties and in multi-bay garages.
Marijuana is so widespread across Kentucky because of the area’s growing season.
“I believe it is so prevalent here because of the region that we are in,” Eaton said, adding that the state’s climate and terrain are perfect for growing marijuana.
The number of marijuana plants cultivated and eradicated by the KSP over the past five years has neither increased nor decreased.
“The numbers I have been looking at, it is pretty consistent over the board,” Eaton said. “In 2011, we had just under 400,000 plants that were harvested. In 2015, it’s just under 530,000 and then those numbers for 2012, 2013 and 2014 fluctuate.”
Statistics from the drug task force show the number of marijuana plants discovered over the past five years to vary from year to year, with 2014 and 2015 being the years when the most plants were located.
In 2011, the drug task force found 140 plants. The next year it found 170.
There was a major decrease the following year, with only 60 plants discovered.
But in 2014, the number of plants found by the drug task force was 469 and in 2015 the agency located 504 plants.
This year, so far, the drug task force has found a total of 24 plants.
“It’s not harvest time, but it’s getting close,” Lafferty said.
Cultivating marijuana over five plants is a Class D felony for the first offense, which is punishable of one to five years in prison, he said.