Local Indiana State Police troopers have another tool in eradicating marijuana – a new all-terrain vehicle. The two troopers dedicated to fighting marijuana use in Kosciusko County recently received the ATV from Lake City Honda, Warsaw. The ATV allows them to reach rural areas more easily and carry more herbicide spray to destroy the plants. Charlie Tubbs, co-owner of Lake City Honda, said that Indiana State Trooper Brooks Shirk asked them about using an ATV for the marijuana eradication program. Tubbs said she and her husband thought the program was a good one, so they decided to donate the ATV. The rugged vehicle is equipped for one trooper to ride. It has a 15-gallon tank on the back with a sprayer for weed killer.
“We can spray so much more than carrying a hand sprayer in,” said Trooper Chad Larsh. One trooper rides while another walks behind, spraying marijuana up to 20 feet away, said Larsh. They are able to spray thousands of plants this way, he said.
The Bremen troopers work in Kosciusko, Elkhart, Marshall, and St. Joseph counties. With the ATV, there will be “a lot of places we’ll get to that aren’t practical to walk into,” said Larsh. “With this, we’ll get to a lot of places we couldn’t get to before.
The state police helicopter contributes to the search for marijuana by flying over fields and helping spot the plants. Larsh said the pilot will radio the men on the ground The helicopter pilot is good at spotting cultivated marijuana, Larsh said.
The eradication program recently began for 1998. Last year, the troopers destroyed at least 100,000 plants, Shirk said. “We want to let the public know what we’re doing to get dope off the street,” said Shirk.
The troopers are also trying to stop people from damaging farmer’s crops in attempts to get marijuana. Farmers can contact the state police with tips or if they find a plant that might be marijuana. This is the first year that troopers are trying to spray the plants before they go to seed. Once the seeds are scattered, they can lie dormant in the ground up to seven years, re-growing and making new plants. If the wild plants are destroyed before they go to seed, the wild crop could be contained within 10 years.
Larsh and Shirk said the wild marijuana is left over from farmers planting hemp crops during the World War II years. The marijuana still grows wild in many areas in northern Indiana. It is a very hearty plant, Larsh said. But people also continue to plant and cultivate marijuana, sometimes even in farmers’ fields. The state police are continuing to work with county and city police departments as well as with conservation officers. Larsh said the agencies share information and spray and destroy plants together. The National Guard is also assisting the state police this year with additional manpower.
If anyone has information on wild or cultivated marijuana, contact the Indiana State Police Bremen post at 800-552-2959 or 574-269-4747.