Nearly a ton of pot destroyed in forest raids
For a photo slideshow of one of those pot raids in Tehama County, go to Mendocino Forest Pot Bust Slideshow at www.willows-journal.com.
One of the largest campaigns to eradicate large marijuana gardens on public land in California history ended Saturday with more than 100 people behind bars and nearly a ton of processed pot destroyed.
“Operation Full Court Press” resulted in the reported seizure of 632,058 marijuana plants, 1,986 pounds of processed marijuana, $28,031 of U.S. currency, 38 weapons, 20 vehicles and the arrest of 132 individuals, according to the latest figures from the state Department of Justice.
“More than 66 percent of all the land raided was public land belonging either to the (U.S. Forest Service or the U.S. Bureau of Land Management),” said Michelle Gregory, a justice department spokeswoman. “The other 33 or so percent was on private lands.”
The operation is one of the largest eradication efforts in state history in terms of geography and the number of agents used in the field, Gregory said.
She declined to say whether or not any of the 132 arrests have been connected to any specific organized Mexican or other drug cartels, though agents have frequently said they believe many, if not most, of the illegal gardens raided belong to dangerous traffickers.
“We are not commenting on any information we may have gleaned (from the arrests),” Gregory said Monday.
They are not commenting on the costs either.
It is unclear how much the entire operation cost taxpayers and it is also unclear if anyone has been keeping track.
Gregory said she was not aware of any information regarding the operation’s price tag for the month-long, six-county sweep that utilized personnel and heavy equipment from dozens of local, county, state and federal agencies.
The raids targeted illegal farming operations in the heavily wooded mountain areas in Glenn, Colusa, Tehama, Mendocino, Lake and Trinity counties.
Reclamation efforts will continue as law enforcement strives to remove the gardens, chemicals and related camps, which will help restore the land to its natural state, Laurel Pistel, a special agent with the Bureau of Land Management in California, said in a statement.
“This is imperative to deter drug trafficking organizations from re-establishing their operations,” Pistel said.
Those clean-up costs have not been reported either.
Gregory said agents are still “tying up loose ends” connected to the massive drug sweep and acknowledged that several raids are tied to complex ongoing investigations that could take several more months to conclude.
“But for all intents and purposes, the raids are over,” Gregory said.
Officials and Glenn, Colusa and Tehama counties have been more cautious about calling the raid a victory and many believe the true success of “Operation Full-Court Press” will not be fully understood until next year when the growers return to the forest for another season.
Still, most local officials have applauded the wide-ranging approach, but insist it must be a long-term approach to be completely effective.