The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept., in conjunction with other national agencies, completed their annual “marijuana eradication” early last week, resulting in the seizure of over $87 million worth of mature plants.
Working with the Dept. of Justice Campaign Against Marijuana Production task force and the National Forest Service, the sheriff’s department exhumed grows in three separate locations around the county, seizing 34,996 mature marijuana plants in the process. According to sheriff’s department, all eradicated growing operations were located within the Los Padres National Forest.
While no arrests were made during the operation, evidence recovered at several of the grow sites indicate that Mexican nationals were living near and tending to the marijuana fields.
The specific locations of the growing operations included two large grows in the Juncal Dam area, which yielded 13,501 plants, three grows in a wilderness area west of Lake Cachuma, which yielded 18,555 plants, and four grows in Bear Canyon that yielded 2,940 plants. All told, the near 35,000 mature marijuana plants carried with them an estimated street value of $87,490,000, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration evaluation.
According to a press release issued by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept., those responsible for the plant cultivation were far from casual stoners.
“The increasingly large and sophisticated marijuana plantations are very often the work of dangerous drug cartels,” the press release said. “The growers are usually armed, sometimes with automatic weapons and high-power rifles, and they have been known to place ‘booby traps’ designed to seriously maim or kill intruders.”
Visitors to the national forest who observe individuals carrying irrigation tubing or packing in large amounts of food are asked to contact the sheriff’s department immediately.