Law enforcement officers in Southern California have eradicated nearly 75,000 cannabis plants from the Los Padres National Forest over the last six months, according to a statement released by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office on Monday. A total of 18 illegal marijuana cultivation investigations were conducted by the agency on public and private land in and around the national forest during the months of May through October, according to the sheriff’s office.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Narcotics Bureau, SWAT Team, and Aviation Unit cooperated in the operation, which led to the arrests of 11 individuals. A total of 74,600 cannabis plants were seized, along with 1,500 pounds of harvested marijuana and 84 firearms. Officials reported that the seizures represented a significant increase in confiscated plants, processed marijuana, guns, and arrests over previous years.
Because many of the illegal cultivation sites in this coastal county north of Los Angeles are often located in remote areas far from roads, law enforcement officers used helicopters to accomplish the eradication operations. Police personnel were transported to the sites via the aircraft, which were then utilized to haul out confiscated marijuana, trash, and other seized contraband. Thousands of pounds of marijuana and trash were airlifted to a remote disposal site and buried, according to law enforcement officials.
Hazardous Waste Also Found At Illegal Grow Sites
The sheriff’s office noted that many of the illegal cultivation sites are responsible for extensive environmental damage and pollution. In addition to trash and litter, evidence of both legal and illegal pesticides and herbicides is often found. Other environmental violations including illegal grading, the removal of native plants, and the unlawful diversion of natural waterways are also often discovered.
“It is not uncommon for investigators to locate carbofuran, a pesticide, in the grow sites and applied to the plants,” the sheriff’s office wrote in the release. “The Environmental Protection Agency banned carbofuran in the United States in 2010 because the pesticide is extremely toxic to animals and humans. According to the labels, the carbofuran that is being found in the grow sites have been imported into the United States from Mexico or China.”
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office conducts marijuana cultivation eradication operations with federal grant funding from the U.S. Forest Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The investigations and raids were accomplished with the assistance of the United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), California National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, DEA, and the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting program (CAMP).
The Los Padres National Forest, which covers nearly 3,000 square miles of California land from Ventura to Monterey, was also the site of marijuana eradication operations by other law enforcement agencies this summer. In July, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office Cannabis Compliance Team seized approximately 4,000 illegal cannabis plants from the national forest near New Cuyama. Deputies from the sheriff’s office, along with CDFW wardens and agents assigned to CAMP, served a search warrant to eradicate cultivation sites in the Sierra Madre area of Los Padres National Forest. No suspects were arrested in that operation.