Authorities report big jump in marijuana plants seized in California raids

By Terrapinzflyer · Nov 5, 2009 · ·
  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Authorities report big jump in marijuana plants seized in California raids

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Authorities reported a staggering jump in the number of marijuana plants seized in California's eradication effort, claiming a more than 50 percent jump over the previous year.

    The Campaign Against Marijuana Planting seized 4.4 million plants in 2009, up from 2.9 million plants in 2008, according to state Department of Justice figures released Wednesday.

    The state has reported a record number of seizures each year since 2002, when more than 354,000 plants were cut down. Agents cracked the one million mark in 2005.

    This year's increase was due to the discovery of larger pot gardens and the use of better eradication strategies, state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement spokeswoman Michelle Gregory said.

    Increased use of helicopters is the main factor allowing agents to find and destroy more plants, she said.

    Marijuana advocates and some policy analysts have long accused the state campaign of inflating estimates of plants seized and their value on the street.

    Gregory said individual agents keep a tally as they cut down plants during each raid then analysts compile totals.

    Agents seized 89 weapons and made 111 arrests during the raids that started in June and ended in October. More than 75 percent of the plants seized were grown on public land, officials said.

    Shasta County in central Northern California topped the list of counties with more than 557,000 plants pulled from the ground. Lake County was second with more than 506,000 followed by Mendocino County with nearly 441,000 plants.

    Associated Press Writer
    November 4, 2009 | 4:08 p.m.,0,54395.story

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  1. chillinwill
    Marijuana seizures quadruple in L.A. County

    The county climbs to the No. 5 spot in California's annual eradication campaign, with more than 340,000 plants destroyed.

    Los Angeles County, which has seen a whirlwind expansion in medical marijuana dispensaries this year, has notched another marijuana milestone. The county has moved to No. 5 for the amount seized in the state's annual eradication campaign, with 340,187 pot plants uprooted -- more than a fourfold increase.

    Statewide, the 27-year-old effort, known as the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, found and destroyed almost 4.5 million plants in 41 counties, up from 2.9 million seized in each of the two prior years' growing season. The amount has climbed steadily since 1996, when California voters approved the nation's first medical marijuana law.

    State officials put the wholesale value of this year's eradicated marijuana at $17.8 billion.

    L.A. County ranked 11th last year. By vaulting into the Top 10, it joins some of the state's better-known marijuana-growing counties, including Mendocino, Trinity and Humboldt, popularly known as the Emerald Triangle.

    State officials said the increase in seizures statewide probably reflects more effective law enforcement operations, as well as increased marijuana production. "I do think it's expanding," said George Anderson, director of the state Division of Law Enforcement.

    Chris Jackson of the state Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement said his team spent about 15 days working in Los Angeles County with the Sheriff's Department and U.S. Forest Service. One particular three-day stretch amazed him, he said. Within an eight-mile radius of their outpost on Angeles Crest Highway, he said, agents uncovered and destroyed a dozen gardens and about 150,000 plants.

    "The sheer quantity indicates that the majority of it is going out onto the street," he said. "As much as dispensaries are popping up like crazy, you are still going to have a dealer walking down the street selling it."

    Officials attribute most of the operations to drug cartels that have shifted their cultivation north to avoid smuggling marijuana across the border and to be closer to their market. "Many of these big grows have been either started or taken over by the drug trafficking organizations out of Mexico," Anderson said.

    Many of these operations are hidden deep in canyons or carved out of steep hillsides in remote areas of national parks and forests, causing considerable damage when trees are cleared and land cultivated.

    Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project, ridiculed the effort. "Let me guess, they set a record number of plant seizures and marijuana has now been eradicated from California?" he quipped.

    Mirken said the campaign has caused growers to move from private lands into wilderness areas. "This is an annual exercise in futility. Not only does it not do anything meaningful, it actually makes the problem worse," he said.

    The proportion seized on public lands increased to 76% this year from 70% in 2008.

    The annual effort includes officers from numerous state and federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the California Highway Patrol, which conducted 665 raids, up from 542 in 2008. Agents made 111 arrests and found 89 weapons. Last year, they made 143 arrests and found 142 weapons.

    By John Hoeffel
    November 5, 2009
    LA Times,0,509391.story?track=rss
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