190 pot plants found in West Chester basement

Lewis Thomas III (Source: Butler County Sheriff's Office)
Lewis Thomas III (Source: Butler County Sheriff's Office)

WEST CHESTER, OH (FOX19) - A West Chester man was taken into custody after undercover agents seized 190 marijuana plants growing in a basement, in addition to four pounds of pot sent in the mail from California.

The Butler County Undercover Regional Narcotics (BURN) Task Force executed a search warrant Thursday at a home in the 7800 block of Plantation Drive. With the help of U.S. Postal Inspections, agents tracked packages containing drugs being sent to the address from Southern California.

More than four pounds of marijuana sent through the mail were seized. Authorities said once inside the home, they also discovered "a significant marijuana grow operating in the basement," which was a total of 190 plants.

Lewis Thomas III, 27, was arrested in connection with the plants. He's been charged with one count of cultivation of marijuana.

BURN agents also seized miscellaneous drug paraphernalia, hypodermic needles and a 2002 Lexus.

According to Narcotics Supervisor Sgt. Mike Hackney, the investigation is still ongoing and additional charges are expected.

Authorities involved in that bust say indoor growing could be a problem that's really growing around here.

"It could be anywhere.  It could be your next door neighbor," said Cmdr. John Burke of the Warren County Drug Task Force.

Burke was part of that multi-agency effort to get millions of dollars in marijuana off the streets.  It's not the drugs that are so alarming to police, it's how, and where they're finding them.

"It's a new problem all around the region.  It can be in a remote farmhouse, or it can be in a subdivision," said Burke.

He's talking about big indoor marijuana grows.  He says they're gaining in popularity in the area.

"It's the most profitable way.  It's the most lucrative way to do marijuana growth is inside," Burke told FOX19.

It's so profitable, Burke says, growers could bring a return 5 times more than they would on pot grown outside.  But, its potential profits like that, and a possibility of tax money, that one area man cites as reasons to legalize.

"You have to have your laws and regulations for them, and I just hope in the next few years, I hope it does pass," said Thomas Silcott of West Chester.

But, authorities don't see it the same way.  With the marijuana seized on Tuesday coming from dispensaries selling it on the black market, as police put it, they see a real potential for a bigger problem closer to home.

"We see what happened here from those dispensaries, the same thing will happen in Ohio if it's allowed to get on the ballot and passed," Burke said.

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