The agency responsible for law enforcement outside of Cupertino city limits took part in a large-scale bust of four illegal marijuana groves in Santa Clara County. On Wednesday morning, an armed platoon of 16 state agents wearing camouflage took part in the eradication of four illegal marijuana plantation sites on the outskirts of Gilroy. Two were inside Mt. Madonna County Park and the other two in private property that borders the park. Authorities collected approximately 20,000 of the plants on Wednesday, with a street value of $25-$30 million, said Sgt. Troy Smith, spokesman for the Santa Clara County Sheriffs Office.
The agents were a unit of the “Campaign Against Marijuana Planting” or CAMP, a program that has destroyed illegal marijuana camps throughout California since 1983. The sites were found during the traditional reconnaissance patrols that take place between January and June. Agents belonging to a combination of state organizations, like California National Guardsmen, Santa Clara County Sheriffs Office and other state agencies, were dropped using a rope from a helicopter into the rugged terrain. “I am not seeing any less,” said Commander Neil Cuthbert of CAMP. “Every year this program exceeds the following year.” Last year, CAMP collected more than 4 million plants, and Cuthbert expects that this year’s collection will be even greater.
The existence of these illegal marijuana groves can be cause of serious concern to visitors, wildlife and the habitat of the park, he said. Both CAMP and the sheriff’s department claimed to have found weapons in the campsites of these hidden marijuana groves. “People come out here and like to enjoy the environment,” said Cuthbert. “There are weapons out there, and the people in these growth sites occasionally do take actions to protect them.” There is still no word as to who was in control of these sites, but the sheriff’s department said that work is being done to find the suspects. “What we do is try to identify the subjects and see if we can tie them to any kind of cartels that are out there, but that is a work in progress,” said Smith.
These growth sites also pose a serious problem for the environment. Harmful pesticides are used, and all the trees and plants were cleared from the sites. CAMP also estimated this Wednesday’s eradicated growth sites to be the size of a full football field. “We work in in collaboration with California Fish and Game, and they will come and assist us in clearing the areas and making them livable habitats again for the wildlife,” said Smith. “It poses an enormous environmental damage to the area.” According to Cuthbert, the plants appeared not to have matured, for the most part. Despite this detail, Cuthbert considered the operation a success, because it kept future plants from maturing and, therefore, being sold. The cut plants will be disposed of by the county and buried in landfills if they are found to be mature. The very young plants will be buried on site. No specific numbers were given as to how much money would have resulted if the plants had been allowed to mature and be sold. However, Smith said a pound of marijuana tends to go for $2,000. The illegal cultivation of marijuana occurs around the county, but Smith said it is too early in the season to tell what sort of activity is occurring.
via : Cupertino Patch
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