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Budget cuts won't affect marijuana search efforts

By Charles Young

State agency budget cuts won't affect efforts to disrupt outdoor pot growing operations, a State Police official said.

Sgt. Mike Smith voiced concerns last year that budget cuts proposed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin could limit how often troopers are able to search for marijuana crops in 2013.

Now that those cuts have gone into affect, he said his program has largely been spared.

"It didn't affect us too bad," he said. "A lot of the money we use to combat drugs comes from asset forfeiture and that's into a totally different realm to where that money has to be spent fighting and trying to dismantle drug organizations."

Smith said marijuana eradication is an important issue in West Virginia because the state ranks fourth among the nation's top pot-producing states.

Last year State Police seized and destroyed more than 200,000 marijuana plants. 

Smith said this year troopers are likely to find just as many.  

"We've just finished up our first month (of eradication efforts) at the end July and we're just getting into the game," he said. "I'd say we got six, seven thousand plants right out of the gate."

 Smith said the troopers attempt to find crops on their own, but largely depend on tips from the public.

 "We get a lot of people who call in and say they encountered someone in the woods who was suspicious or tried to run them off of a certain area," he said. "It's calls from people who might find it growing on their family farm or comes across plants on public land somewhere."

As peak pot harvest season approaches -- late summer to early fall -- Smith urged the public to be on the lookout for anyone displaying signs of marijuana cultivation. 

After receiving tips Smith said troopers trained to spot plants from the air make flyovers in a helicopter.

"If we find it, generally we go in and destroy the plants," he said. "If we have a suspect and we catch them there in the plants, we turn them over to the prosecutors."  

To submit a tip, visit www.wvsp.gov/pages/crime-tips.aspx. ;

Contact writer Charles Young at charles.young@dailymail.com or 304-348-1796


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