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Combined effort nets truckload of marijuana

A pungent smell and the distinctive leaf pattern left little doubt that it was marijuana plants lining the bed of the agent's pickup truck.

Dozens of plants, many more than 8-foot tall, were the result of a cooperative sweep by the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife and the Ohio Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigations.

Using a helicopter to spot the fields from the sky, nearly a dozen camouflage-clad, machete-wielding agents scoured the Buck Creek and Greasy Ridge area for the illegal cash crop.

The agents waited anxiously under a church shelter Monday afternoon as the helicopter returned from its third refueling.

The sweep was part of an annual statewide effort to eradicate marijuana. Monday was the first day the state agents visited Lawrence County.

Sheriff Tim Sexton said more than 100 plants were recovered, but no perpetrators were arrested because it is difficult to determine who planted the crop.

The plants will be held as evidence and burned if no one is charged.

The sweeps focus on areas that the department suspects to be ideal areas for growing marijuana and from tips provided by the community, he said.

Having a helicopter available makes a big difference because the BCI has experts who can spot fields from a mile away, Sexton said.

Law enforcement agents will continue to sweep through the county today, and the BCI may return later this summer, he said.