A record $720 million worth of marijuana was seized over the last year, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept.
The Santa Barbara Narcotics Bureau discovered 22 illegal grow sites throughout 2009, leading to the eradication of over 238,335 plants. These numbers represent a 25 percent increase from the 16 marijuana gardens discovered last year, according to a report from the Sheriff’s Dept.
The department also worked to eradicate indoor marijuana gardens, seizing an additional 20,000 plants with an estimated value of $5,862,000. This is a slight decrease compared to the 25,000 indoor plants confiscated in 2008.
According to the Sheriff’s Dept., the marijuana grow sites threaten the environment and safety of residents and visitors to the Los Padres National Forest, where many of the gardens are discovered.
Growers can be armed and dangerous, and the marijuana fields themselves are often booby-trapped, according to the Narcotics Bureau. Several local homicides have been linked to Mexican drug trafficking organizations and competition over growing sites.
Additionally, the illegal dumping of trash and pesticides can lead to water pollution and rerouting of natural water sources. Last summer’s La Brea Fire, which burned over 90,000 acres in the San Rafael Wilderness, was started by a faulty propane tank at a grow site.
The Sheriff’s Dept.’s marijuana eradication campaign received assistance from several other organizations including the Justice Dept., the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, the Drug Enforcement Admin-istration, the National Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard and Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue.