CLEVELAND, Ohio – Police across the state have uncovered a puzzling trend: The number of seizures of marijuana and methamphetamine has dropped drastically in recent years, while usage of the drugs continues to soar.
Authorities said the reason stems from greater sophistication: Many marijuana growers are developing potent plants inside their homes and barns in elaborate grow operations, while Mexican drug cartels have established networks to ship cheap, yet powerful methamphetamine into Ohio, reducing the need to manufacture the drug here.
In fiscal year 2012, authorities reported shutting down 607 methamphetamine labs across the state. Five years later, police closed 239, according to records police departments filed with the Ohio Attorney General’s office. That’s a drop of 61 percent.
The amount of marijuana uprooted has also dwindled. In 2010, authorities pulled a record 105,121 plants, many of which were planted in large plots in Southeast Ohio’s rural hillsides. This year, authorities chopped down 20,468 plants, a reduction of 81 percent, the records show. Most of the plants were spotted in an eradication program in which state agents use a helicopter.
Across the state, as heroin and synthetic opioids fuel a deadly epidemic, police, lawmakers and addiction services professionals also are struggling with the increased usage of marijuana and methamphetamine.
The Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network, which tracks drug trends, reported earlier this year that the availability of marijuana and methamphetamine has been on the increase across the state. In Southeast Ohio, for instance, methamphetamine “was as widely available as heroin,” state reports said. In Columbus, authorities said, methamphetamine “produced in ‘superlabs’ in Mexico has been shipped with heroin.”
Exactly how and when Mexican cartels began targeting users in Ohio and other Midwest states is unclear. But officials said the cartels have found fertile ground here. The organizations produce the high-quality