Bad news, Kentucky marijuana growers: Johnny Law is once again watching you from the sky via their much-beloved helicopters.
The good news is that rising fuel costs and tighter police budgets mean that the copters won’t be buzzing 24-7 anymore. Instead, they’ll focus their efforts around a single week according to the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.
In past years, the cops would do blanket searches, just burning up gas as they crisscrossed over people’s private property – spying down from above on everyone on the hopes of busting a few pot growers.
While the cops didn’t say where they would be targeting this year, they did say they were scaling back the use of the helicopter and only scouting sites previously known as cannabis grow locations and places ratted out by neighbors and hunters.
Historically, marijuana has been most strongly grown in Leslie, Wayne, Clay, Owsley and Bell counties, with more than 3.4 million plants destroyed between those five counties between 1990 and 2011.
According to Kentucky State Police statistics from 2011, police found statewide 5,102 outdoor grow plots with more than 396,662 plants in that year. They also busted 81 indoor grows in 2011 with more than 7,100 plants. In all, 491 people were arrested on marijuana cultivation charges. Kentucky State Police often partner with the U.S. Forest Service and federal Drug Enforcement Administration when making arrests and seizures.
According to data from 2009, Kentucky ranks third in marijuana arrests per every 100,000 people. The cost of processing all of those people through arrests, courts and jail costs the state taxpayers more than $1.68 billion per year.
Possession of less than eight ounces in Kentucky is a misdemeanor charge with 45 days in jail and $250 as the max penalty. Cultivation of less than five plants is also a misdemeanor with up to a year in jail and $500 in fines. More than five plants is a mandatory year in jail and $10,000 in fines. A second offense will get you a mandatory five years in jail and an additional $10,000.