Butler County helicopter used to find pot funded by drug seizures

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Sheriff Richard K. Jones wants to run Emergency Management Aggency.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The Butler County Sheriff’s helicopter was in the air Wednesday throughout the county as part of an annual marijuana eradication effort, according to Major Mike Craft.

All counties conduct investigations annually, including Butler County. This year 200 plants were found in 22 locations in Butler County, Craft said.

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There were no arrests. Craft said plants found in recent years are in locations with just two or three plants grown in a field or backyard, which is difficult to tie to a specific person, farmer or resident.

A Butler County Sheriff’s Office helicopter will be used in Pike County to take aerial photographs.

A Butler County Sheriff’s Office helicopter will be used in Pike County to take aerial photographs.
A Butler County Sheriff’s Office helicopter will be used in Pike County to take aerial photographs.

The sheriff’s office teams up with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation for the eradication operation, and the department’s helicopter is contracted by BCI for use in 18 counties.

Craft said 200 plants is “a good lick. We used to get thousands but it all shifted to indoors because of our aviation division. It scared a lot of them off.”

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This operation involved officers in the sky looking for marijuana plants, which Craft said are very distinct when mixed with other crops and backyard landscaping. There were no tips about grow operations pointing officers to specific locations, he said.

The helicopter was in the sky eight hours, and officers worked 10 hours yesterday during the operation. The plants are kept in evidence and destroyed annually, along with other drugs seized.

While eradication efforts don’t net the same results in past years, Craft said they will continue.

“Because (marijuana) is illegal,” Craft said. “That is about as simple as it can get. It is against the law and until the law changes we are going to enforce the law.”

Despite legalization for medical marijuana, it is still illegal to grow plant in Ohio. said Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones.

“It’s illegal to grow marijuana, period,” Jones said. “It’s illegal to make whiskey and run liquor. You can buy it in the store legally, but it is illegal to have stills. It’s still illegal to grow marijuana. I don’t make the laws, I enforce them and will continue, until they make it legal, then it is a different story.”

The sheriff said in recent years the focus of the the drug unit has switched to methamphetamine, cocaine and heroine, but the growing and distribution of marijuana is not ignored.

Over the years, the BCSO has had several helicopters that were Army surplus, but the last two were purchased with drug seizure money, including cash and proceeds of sale of assets from drug activity.

Jones said the helicopter has many uses other than eradication including rescues, searches and police business even in counties that might need aerial assistant for investigations.

“We have never used the helicopter for just marijuana,” Jones said. “We get plenty of bang out of it and the drug dealers are paying for the helicopter. We appreciate them doing it.”

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