For Drug Growers, Grass Greener On Other Side

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Mar 25, 2001.

  1. By Don Thompson, Associated Press
    Source: Denver Rocky Mountain News

    When 8-year-old Matthew Hunt and his father, William, were shot as they hunted on their own land last fall, it illustrated a growing danger in California. The pair stumbled onto a marijuana garden hidden in a remote El Dorado County section of the Sierra foothills.
    They were wounded by a man police say was hired to guard the patch and about 1,200 harvested marijuana plants. They survived, while their alleged assailant and his purported employer are awaiting an April trial on attempted-murder charges.

    "Right now, we're starting to get into planting season," said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Matt Mathes. "But the most dangerous time is during the fall harvest season."

    In the past few years, pot farms have started popping up in the Sierra foothills and near metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, said California Department of Justice spokesman Mike Van Winkle.

    What's more, authorities confirmed through drug-transaction records seized last year that California's dangerous and heavily polluting methamphetamine labs are increasingly tied to marijuana production.

    "We saw the Mexican cartels control the large-scale meth labs, and they're using the profits for their marijuana operations," Van Winkle said.

    In October, state and federal authorities arrested 10 people alleged to be members of a Mexican drug cartel growing marijuana in California national forests.

    Drug agents seized drugs with an estimated street value of $200 million.

    As many as eight people tended one San Bernardino National Forest garden outside Los Angeles.

    Mexico-based drug operations that once smuggled marijuana into the United States figured out in recent years that it's easier to simply grow the crop here.

    The crops are often planted in remote areas on public land such as California's national forests, where the number of marijuana plants seized jumped nearly fourfold -- from 22,000 in 1999 to 100,000 last year.

    Most of the sites have armed guards -- particularly during harvest season, when poachers might steal the ripening marijuana.

    "There's where the big threat to public safety comes in," said Mendocino County Sheriff Tony Craver.

    Last year, his teams pulled up 31,583 plants, second only to Kern County, according to the state Justice Department. Statewide, more than 345,000 plants worth $1.3 billion were seized in 263 raids -- but just 16 people were arrested.

    Kern County, north of the greater Los Angeles area, vaulted to the top over the Emerald Triangle counties of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity in remote northwestern California after deputies found a 59,000-plant garden in the Sequoia National Forest last year.

    It was the largest pot plot ever discovered in California, accounting for more than one-sixth of the total marijuana seized last year. Police found 40 sleeping bags along with food and other supplies -- but the camp was abandoned.

    Note: In California, they're taking their marijuana operations to remote locales, including private land, national forests.

    Complete Title: For Drug Growers, Grass Greener On Other Side of The Tents

    Source: Denver Rocky Mountain News (CO)
    Author: Don Thompson, Associated Press
    Published: March 23, 2001
    Copyright: 2001 Denver Publishing Co.
    Address: 400 W. Colfax, Denver, CO 80204

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