Highway patrol donates items seized in drug cases to Mineral Area College

Friday, January 7, 2011

In a different spin on higher education, a drug dealer's loss is Mineral Area College's gain.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop C at a news conference Thursday announced the donation of seized equipment from two drug cases to the college's horticulture program. Some 60 students will benefit from the addition of humidifiers, electronic scales, air growing buckets, CO2 regulators, growing lights and exhaust fan systems used to grow marijuana.

The equipment, with an estimated value of $6,000 to $7,000, according to a college official, was seized by the Mineral Area Drug Task Force and the highway patrol. It will now be used for educational purposes.

"We're grateful to the patrol in including us in this first round of donations, not that we want there to be more, but we're glad schools will benefit in the future," said Gil Kennon, vice president of college affairs.

While he's heard plenty of stoner jokes in recent days, Kennon said the once-illicit equipment will be put to good use.

"At the press conference, we said you can grow tomatoes with it, too," he said, chuckling.

The donation comes at an opportune time. Kennon said the greenhouse's grow lights were stolen last semester. The highway patrol's gift replaced the stolen lights, valued at about $1,400 each, Kennon said.

He marveled at the ingenuity of the technology used in manipulating some of the equipment. A hydroponic tube, made of plastic fence posts, was capped with hoses on both ends, pumping water throughout the system.

"It was kind of ingenious," Kennon said.

The equipment was sterilized to remove chemicals and residue, he said.

A highway patrol official could not be reached for comment Thursday, but Kennon said the donation program is patterned after a law enforcement initiative in another state. Mineral Area College is the first institution to benefit from the program.

In a news release, Capt. Ronald S. Johnson, commanding officer at Troop C in Weldon Spring, Mo., said the items have been approved for donation by the courts of jurisdiction.

"They said they had 15 pallets of various kinds of material stored right now," Kennon said. "The way I understand it, in the future they're going to refine the process to include an application process."



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