Pubdate: Wed, 15 May 2002
Source: Intelligencer & Wheeling News-Register (WV)
Copyright: 2002 The Intelligencer & Wheeling News Register
Author: John Phillips


Approximately 50 people have been arrested in connection with picking of 
psilocybin mushrooms near Castleman's Run Road in Brooke County near Bethany.

Brooke County Sheriff Bernie Kazienko confirmed Tuesday the arrests have 
been made since May 1, and 30 more people face charges of picking the 
psilocybin mushroom. Kazienko explained that the psilocybin mushroom, when 
ingested, produces a mild hallucinogenic effect or "buzz."

Psilocybin mushrooms are classified as a controlled substance under the 
West Virginia Controlled Substance Act.

"This is an annual event during the mushroom season, which is May through 
September," Kazienko explained.

"The last couple of years, we've been watching the area, and watching which 
mushrooms have been picked."

He said that while the arrests have been made during the initial 
investigation, many suspects also were charged with possession of marijuana 
either on their person or in vehicles. Some individuals attempted to escape 
the area and were charged with fleeing from police.

"We've actually come in contact with approximately 100 people, and other 
charges are pending on close to a total of 80 individuals," Kazienko said. 
"There are also juveniles involved."

He said the property is owned by Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. and that 
the steel company has been cooperative.

He also said he met with an environmentalist and an attorney from 
Wheeling-Pitt, which owns 160 acres in the area.

"We took them to the scene," Kazienko said, adding that since the meeting, 
Wheeling-Pitt has contacted the West Virginia University Extension Office 
and the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.

"They wanted to see what they could do to eradicate the mushrooms," 
Kazienko said.

He said there are other options, such as using a bulldozer to clear the area.

"There will be costs for Wheeling-Pitt associated with that," Kazienko said.

Wheeling-Pitt has since hired security personnel to patrol the area. 
Bethany College security also is involved in the patrolling.

"We're going to have people indicted by the grand jury on June 3 in 
connection with the mushroom incidents," Kazienko said. "Some have been 
arrested for possession with intent to deliver the mushrooms and others for 
possession with intent to deliver marijuana."

Brooke County Sheriff's Deputy Steve Seminsky also has been working on the 
investigation and confirmed more warrants will be issued. He said some 
plain clothes officers also have been on patrol.

"We're learning this has been going on for several years," Seminsky said. 
"We've found people out there from the break of day to late evenings, just 
after dark." Seminsky said, explaining that none of those arrested had to 
be transported to the Brooke County Jail in Wellsburg, but were processed 
at the scene.

"Our biggest concern is the safety of the individuals," Seminsky added. "We 
don't want them ODing on the mushroom or taking the wrong mushroom and dying."

Charges were were logged against people from Ohio, West Virginia and 

A person arrested for simple possession faces a misdemeanor charge and the 
penalties can include 90 days to six months in jail, a fine of up to 
$1,000, or both. Persons also may be placed on probation for six months.

Persons found in possession of the mushrooms with intent to deliver or sell 
face a felony charge and that carries a prison term of one to five years, a 
fine of up to $15,000, or both. In addition, any property connected to the 
incident may be seized, pending forfeiture through the court system.
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