Police officers watching from above and on the ground have arrested two Letcher County men on charges of cultivating more than five plants of marijuana.
Tommy Lee Wright, 64, of Neon and Bobby C. Bates, 41, of Colson were charged in separate cases recently after Fleming-Neon City Police and Kentucky State Police say they spotted marijuana growing around homes where the two men live.
Wright, of 1637 Highway 317, was arrested August 7 after Fleming- Neon Police Chief Mike Dingus said he saw the tops of several marijuana plants outside Wright’s home while assisting the Letcher County dog warden’s office on an unrelated complaint.
“I responded to a complaint of several dogs (that were) uncared for,” Dingus wrote in an arrest citation. “While there, I saw the tops of several marijuana plants over the back fence. Subject stated that it was medicinal and that he had approximately 15 plants. Ninety-one (91) plants were recovered from the property.”
According to Dingus, some of the plants outside Wright’s home had reached heights of 14 to 15 feet. He said the plants were inside a fenced area and had been covered by a tarp, but had outgrown it.
Dingus said Wright is a “longtime grower” but hadn’t lived at the present location for very long.
Dingus said Wright told him he doesn’t sell the marijuana he grows, but gives away what he doesn’t use himself to medical patients.
Bates, of 7846 Highway 7 North, was arrested by state police July 16 after officers with the agency’s “Cannabis Suppression Branch” spotted nine plants growing around Bates’s home during a helicopter flyover.
“Subject had nine marijuana plants growing on his property that was spotted by KSP aircraft,” KSP Trooper J. Wireman wrote in an arrest citation. “All nine plants were found in buckets and planted in ground around house. Two plants were spotted by ground crew from driveway along side of the residence.”
State police say that in 2013 in Letcher County, 3,133 marijuana plants were contained in 30 plots that were found and destroyed as a result of Kentucky’s marijuana eradication program. In 2012 in Letcher County, 133 plots containing 8,760 plants were destroyed.
Letcher County’s total number of pot plants found and destroyed is low when compared to other counties in southeastern Kentucky. While Letcher is not among the state’s 10 top marijuanaproducing counties between 1998 and 2013, the neighboring counties of Knott, Perry and Harlan were ranked eight, nine and 10. Leslie County was the state’s top pot producer during the 15-year period, with 1,101,920 plants found and destroyed. In Knott County, 452,202 plants were eliminated between the 1998 and 2013 growing seasons. Pot growers in Perry County lost 429,047 plants to police during the period, while Harlan growers lost 383,117 plants.
In Knott County last year, police destroyed 317 plots containing 14,324 marijuana plants. Two hundred eighty-three plots containing 12,883 plants were destroyed in Perry County in 2013, while 38 plots with 5,080 plants were destroyed in Harlan County. In neighboring Pike County, the state’s largest county, state police pot patrollers found 15,113 plants in 187 plots.