Monday, 20 May 2024

Illegal marijuana eradications continue to climb locally

LAKE COUNTY – It could end up being another record year for illegal medical marijuana eradications in Lake County. {sidebar id=99}


The local seizures of illegally grown plants on public and private lands this year is fast approaching last year's record total, according to Lt. Dave Garzoli of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.


Over the last several years Lake County has led the state in the number of illegal marijuana plants eradicated. State and local officials have attributed the rapid growth in illicit marijuana grown locally to the county's many remote areas where the plants and growing operations are easy to hide.


The Mendocino National Forest itself has been a particular target, with officials estimating that the illegal grows are causing extreme damage to natural resources and wildlife, as well as posing danger to humans who happen across them.


So far this year, the amount of processed marijuana and firearms seized, as well as arrests, are down, according to statistics provided by Garzoli.


However, this year saw the first reported homicide related to a marijuana grow, as Lake County News has reported. A Santa Rosa man's body was found in an illegal pot garden off Highway 175 near Middletown. Initial report indicated he may have been attempting to steal marijuana to settle a debt owed him by one of the growers.


The most recent number for eradicated plants in Lake County this year is about 470,000, said Garzoli – compared to last year's total of 507,000.


That's despite getting a late start on eradication activities this year, said Garzoli.


“Our whole operation hinges on the availability of helicopters,” he explained.


Garzoli said the helicopters normally used in finding marijuana were put into emergency service when the state was hit by hundreds of wildfires earlier this summer.


The state Department of Justice's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting – known by the acronym CAMP – has provided eradication assistance to the sheriff's office for much of the summer, said Garzoli.


CAMP's operations for the year are getting set to wrap up, however. The Department of Justice's Burean of Narcotic Enforcement confirmed to Lake County News that CAMP's last day of operation for this year's summer harvest season is Oct. 17.


The sheriff's efforts continue year-round, said Garzoli.


“We've got our own funding from DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) and we'll continue to fly up until it starts raining,” said Garzoli.


At that point, rather than looking for plants they'll be focusing more on looking for vehicles in the Mendocino National Forest, Garzoli said.


Garzoli estimates he'll have firm numbers on the season's eradications by mid-November. Indoor grows could add to a larger end-of-year total.


The flyovers will cease for the rainy and then resume next March, when law enforcement looks for illegal marijuana garden planting. Garzoli said that early intervention helps address the thousands of seedlings being planted at that time.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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