As summer turns to fall in the foothills of Appalachia, the annual harvest for Ohio’s best marijuana becomes a chase between police and sophisticated growers, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The drug’s potency, which has skyrocketed over the years, and its profitability in a region crippled by poverty have made the chase as intense as ever.
What makes the high-stakes game different is a new wave of players. Mexican nationals have begun growing large plots of marijuana across southern Ohio hills. Some state authorities, who have tracked marijuana for years, say the groups are financed by the Mexican drug cartels in an attempt to use the state’s temperate weather, good soil, and vast rural landscape to grow potent pot without being noticed. Others, including federal prosecutors, aren’t so sure. While Mexicans are among those who have been prosecuted for cultivating the drug, federal officials have not been able to link them to major drug organizations. The fact that the new groups have moved in and begun what some are calling marijuana megafarms has been a shock to a region that enjoys a slower pace of life.