Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pot plots more prevalent on forest land in West

Increased security along the Mexican border has led to more marijuana growing in rural areas in the Western U.S. Jesse McKinley of The New York Times quotes Santa Barbara County, Calif., sheriff Bill Brown: "It’s [border control] made it much more difficult for the cartels to smuggle into the country, particularly marijuana, which is large and bulky. It’s easier to grow it here.” A 90,000-acre wildfire in the county was started by pot growers for a Mexican drug cartel last week.

In Colorado, Kirk Mitchell of The Denver Post reported that 20,000 marijuana plants were found on Colorado national forest land this summer. (U. S. Forest Service photo) "The operations pose a significant safety hazard to hikers who may happen upon the armed farmers in the woods," Mitchell writes. "They also threaten streams that can be polluted by chemicals used to grow marijuana."

McKinley notes that marijuana plots have long been "a fixture of the nation's public lands" but says they have become more numerous in recent years. Some of the largest marijuana farms in Colorado and California history have been discovered this summer, both reporters found. Mitchell reports that the U. S. Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Region has asked for $100,000 to cover the cost of searching for the farms, but even with more resources, officials face an almost impossible task. McKinley reports that Santa Barbara County officials say in 18 raids they have captured 225,000 plants but made no arrests.

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