Authorities found 139 marijuana plants Thursday during a Huron County eradication operation arranged by the Ohio Bureau of Identification and Investigation. Officers found 58 plants during a similar engagement Aug. 30.
Huron County Sheriff's Capt. Bob McLaughlin said the Marion County helicopter's mechanical problems cut short the late August search, so BCI&I contacted him about another opportunity.
"They're the ones that set the dates," he added.
Most of the plants found Thursday, between 4 1/2 and 5 feet tall, had not matured. Full maturity depends on the water the plants get plus weather and the type of soil.
"I'd imagine they'd be in the ground for another month," McLaughlin said. "Some of them started to bud."
Authorities found the plants at eight different fields in Fairfield, Greenwich, Hartland New Haven and Ripley townships. Nineteen of the 139 plants were discovered in Willard and another 20 on Plymouth East Road.
McLaughlin said there are two suspects wanted in connection with Thursday's search, but there haven't been any arrests made. The suspects aren't being named because they haven't been charged.
Before any charges can be filed, the lab at the Mansfield Police Department needs to test the plants and authorities need to "get the case together," McLaughlin explained.
The Drug Enforcement Agency suggests one 6-foot tall plant yields about 1 pound of pot.
If the seized plants end up weighing more than 200 grams resulting in felony charges, the case will be turned over to Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler's office. If the plants weigh less than that, authorities would turn the matter over to the respective law director overseeing the jurisdiction where the plants were found.
Cpl. Jeff Kerber, who organized last month's operation, has said arrests often are difficult to make because it's a challenge to determine who planted the marijuana in a rural corn fields far from any homes. Kerber also said officers have been known to find plants in someone's garden or at a home while doing an unrelated investigation.
McLaughlin attributed the difference in the amount of plants found between Thursday and Aug. 30 to working an eight-hour day last week instead of a half-day.
"If you have more flight time, you can find more marijuana plants," McLaughlin added, noting that helicopters have to stop every two hours to refuel.
The same two pilots from the Marion County Sheriff's Office involved in the previous operation also assisted the ground crew Thursday. Last week's ground crew consisted of two BCI&I agents, McLaughlin, Kerber, Special Deputy Lon Burton and Wakeman Police Sgt. Josh Milchen.
McLaughlin was asked if the 139-plant haul was as large as he expected to find.
"It's about par. I'd like to find more," he said.
Capt. Jim VanHentenryck, involved in last month's search, said authorities typically get information about where the plants are growing from anonymous callers, snitches and farmers or residents who have seen suspicious activity.