By SAMANTHA PERRY
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
PRINCETON, W.Va. — A three-day, two-county eradication effort has resulted in the seizure of more than a million dollars of marijuana plants in southern West Virginia.
The seizures, carried out in Mercer and McDowell counties, began Monday and concluded Wednesday afternoon. The operation was a combined effort of the West Virginia State Police, the state Department of Natural Resources and the West Virginia National Guard.
“We had well over a million dollars yesterday (Tuesday), as far as street value,” Sgt. A.P. Christian, with the Princeton detachment of the West Virginia State Police, said. “McDowell always brings in more than Mercer because of the ruralness of the county. It’s extremely tough to navigate … and there is no one stumbling over it.”
Christian characterized this year’s eradication efforts as “an average year.”
“We’ve had better. We’ve had worse,” he said.
Christian said large marijuana plots are not as prolific as in decades past because of the work and effort required in growing the plants.
“You have to water them, trim them, fertilize them and separate the males (plants) from the female ones,” he said. “Growing marijuana outside of a controlled environment is a lot of work.”
However, he noted, “We enjoy taking their hard-earned work away from them.”
Christian said the value of the plants is based on the street value of what a mature plant can produce.
An unusual note to this year’s eradication effort was the presence of a presumed guard goat at a plot in McDowell County.
“He was a little protective of his patch, and attempted to head-butt one of the officers,” Sgt. R.A. Daniel, commander of the Welch detachment, said Wednesday afternoon. “But there were no injuries and the patch was cut, so he lost.”
“The goat was a little stubborn, however with a little persuasion, he conceded,” Daniel said later in the day. “No troopers or the goat were harmed.”
Christian surmised the goat was more than likely at the plot to keep brush down and other animals away.
“The old joke is that they plant three plots: One for the animals, one for the State Police and one for themselves,” Christian said.
Christian said the goal of the State Police is “to get them all.”
Marijuana eradication involves a lot of hard work for troopers who have to trek into the mountains, cut the plants down, and then carry them out, Christian said.
Once plants are seized, they are “dried a little” then doused in diesel fuel and burned, he said.
“To most of us it’s a sickening smell that gives us all headaches,” Christian said.
Christian said many plots are found on public property and old mining lands, making arrests difficult.
However, one marijuana grow discovered in the Bluewell area during Wednesday’s eradication efforts in Mercer County will result in charges.
“A gentleman had his own personal stash growing in his garden and had one plant in a flower pot on his porch,” Christian said. “We assume it’s for his own personal use, but either way it’s still illegal. He’ll be charged with a drug-related charge.”
Christian said at least 80 percent of criminal activities the State Police investigate in southern West Virginia are a result of “drugs, drug use or the behavior of being addicted to drugs.”
He also encouraged the public to contact the State Police with tips on marijuana grows. The State Police Princeton detachment can be reached by calling 304-425-2101, and the Welch detachment at 304-436-2101.
Christian praised those involved with this week’s eradication efforts.
“It’s a a product of ground crews working hard, and National Guard and State Police pilots flying very well,” he said. “They are good pilots. Very good pilots.”
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