Man accused of growing marijuana – indoors

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By Jenny Hartley

Lancaster’s drought and merciless sun didn’t stop one Lancaster man’s crop from growing, officers say.

John Thomas Whitaker, 29, of 2141 Whaley St., was charged Thursday by the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office with growing marijuana and simple possession of marijuana.

After receiving information about drug activity at the home, narcotics agents with the sheriff’s office drug team set up surveillance for several hours on Thursday, sheriff’s office spokesman Tom Holland said.

Late in the afternoon, Whitaker left the home and officers stopped him. During the traffic stop, Whitaker was found in possession of a small amount of marijuana, officers Holland said.

Based on the information developed by the narcotics agents, officers obtained a search warrant for the home and found an indoor marijuana field with many plants in pots and soil, Holland said.

“This was one of the most sophisticated indoor grow operations we have busted in a while,” Chief Deputy Maj. Barry Faile said.

Whitaker had an exhaust system, grow lights, fans and thermostats, and even tried to reduce the pungent marijuana odor with a makeshift charcoal filter, officials said.

“I don’t think it helped a whole lot,” Holland said.

Marijuana plants like cooler temperatures, but also need a lot of light to grow, so the bedroom where they were growing was rigged up with lights, reflective material and cooling fans. Soil-testing kits were also found, Holland said.

“He was an artisan,” Holland said.

Whitaker faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of growing marijuana and up to one year if convicted of simple possession of marijuana.

“This is the prime growing season for marijuana in Lancaster,” Faile said.

“Our drug agents are continuing our participation in the Governor’s Office eradication program and have already flown over parts of the county with the National Guard and have plans to fly with SLED (State Law Enforcement Division) in the near future,” Faile said. “As always, we appreciate any information citizens can provide to help with this effort.”

Whitaker was released from the Lancaster County Detention Center on Friday on a $25,000 bond.

Anyone with information about marijuana growing in the county may call the Lancaster County Sheriff Office at 283-4136.

Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at jhartley@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1151