Source: The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH)
Copyright: 1999 The Plain Dealer
Author: Christopher Quinn, Plain Dealer Reporter
Pubdate: Sat, 30 Jan 1999
Contact:  1801 Superior Ave., Cleveland, OH 44114


CLEVELAND HEIGHTS - "I feel a little funny putting this all down on paper,"
a letter to the state prison inmate said. "It seems risky to me. I know
that you said that they don't read your mail, and I guess they wouldn't
have time to read everyone's."

But the Staunton Rd. letter writer was wrong, police said.

She learned yesterday that they do screen inmate mail at Ohio prisons, and
when a letter is about the health of marijuana plants growing in a
Cleveland Heights basement, police officers read the letters, too.

Yesterday, police showed up on the woman's doorstep with a copy of her
letter and a search warrant. The officers departed with 10 marijuana
plants, a grow light, a fan, computer equipment and a homemade pipe
designed for marijuana smoking.

"Cultivation of marijuana is a felony crime in Ohio," Chief Martin Lentz
said. "In reading the letter, the language is quite clear that there was an
intention to distribute."

The woman, who was not arrested, declined to comment. Police plan to
present the case to a grand jury.

She wrote the letter Monday to Michael Scott Drippon, who is serving a
20-year sentence for murder in the state prison in Lucasville, according to
Cleveland Heights Municipal Court records. Drippon shot 15-year-old Michael
Scislo from a moving car in August 1992 in Medina County.

Court records show the woman's letter opens with a discussion of her health
problems and moves on to what she describes as her farm.

"When we got home from the doctor's," the letter says, "Fred watered the
plants. I usually don't go down there, but this time I did, and let me tell
you, they look so sweet. They all have strong-looking stems. (Fred put a
fan in there to simulate the natural breezes like if they were outside) and
they are so green. As you can tell, I am very excited about all of this."

Later in the letter, she discusses harvesting the plants.

"We'll see about that family discount, too," she wrote. "We can work
something out, like maybe a consignment."

Drippon never received the letter. Instead, prison officials faxed it to
police Thursday, and detectives obtained the warrant. They found the
plants, most about a foot tall and growing in clay pots, in a basement
pantry, Lentz said. Ohio courts consider a marijuana plant of any size to
be the equivalent of a pound of harvested marijuana, Lentz said.

Police arrested a man at the house.

In the letter, the woman also discusses smoking her "Beer Bottle Bong," and
police seized a homemade marijuana pipe composed of a beer bottle and some
tubing. In the letter, the woman says she has been smoking the pipe too
often, forcing her to borrow money to buy her "stuff."

"I am used to buying my own weed," the letter says.
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