Medina Township and the Peoria County Sheriff’s Department teamed up Thursday to destroy wild marijuana found growing in rural Medina Township before it matures and before others can get to it.
They may only be about a foot tall right now, but in a few months, the wild marijuana plants in the area can grow into one big problem.
That’s why Medina Township and the Peoria County Sheriff’s Department teamed up Thursday to destroy wild marijuana found growing in rural Medina Township before it matures and before others can get to it.
"We’re working to eradicate it and get it this year before it gets to maturity," said Medina Township Supervisor John Dawson.
The township worked with Austin Griggs, the Medina Township community police officer and a Peoria County sheriff’s deputy, to come up with a plan to spray the plants Thursday afternoon with a chemical herbicide that was donated by Akron Services Inc. of Dunlap.
Tom Geltmaker, a longtime area resident, helped out in the effort by operating an ATV hooked up with a sprayer, while Griggs trekked through the tall grasses alongside a small creek bed and near a local resident’s farm to spray the plants.
Griggs estimated there were 1,000 plants just in the area alone. If left alone, the plants, also known as "ditch weed," can grow five, eight, even 15 feet tall.
Wild marijuana has grown for years in Greater Peoria’s countryside, at area river and stream banks and the edges of cornfields — mostly in rural areas where grass isn’t mowed.
Farmers in the Peoria area and nationwide planted hemp during World War II to make rope as part of the war effort.
Even though hemp use has declined over the years, the resilient plant has never really died off.
And today, to local residents, farmers and the police, the plants are a real problem. Some people have trespassed onto residents’ properties and through their farmland to get at the plants, said Peoria County Sheriff’s Capt. Dave Briggs.
"To some residents of Medina Township, these areas are well known," he said.
Gayle Gatz, who has lived in rural Medina Township for 12 years, said she’s seen people of all age groups trespassing to get at the plants.
"I’m so glad they’re getting rid of it," she said.
Some have marked the isolated areas with signs, with one particularly industrious person even spray painting a wooden irrigation stop with the word "weed."
"It’s been a problem (for the landowners), with kids coming there at nighttime and getting into their fields," Dawson said.
Possession of the plant, in any form, is illegal because all marijuana contains some level of THC, the main active chemical in the plant. The THC is stronger in cultivated marijuana than in wild marijuana, according to police, and wild marijuana has little effect if smoked.
Some people mix wild marijuana with better quality hybrid marijuana, which makes dealers’ total profit and resale greater, according to Illinois State Police.
Griggs said he hopes Thursday’s spraying effort will keep the hardy plant from coming back again next year.
Anita Szoke can be reached at (309) 686-3248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.