The illegal marijuana cultivation industry continues to use public lands to grow an illicit crop. Public land managers continue to try to stop the farming.
Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park Officials report that over the last two weeks law enforcement eradicated 400,000 plants from 71 grow sites in the National Park and surrounding public lands.
Deb Schweizer with Sequoia Kings, reports that most of the cultivation sites were located on public lands along Highway 180 between Grant Grove and Cedar Grove. In what appears normal for these very large farms, Schweizer says that the cultivation sites are tied to drug trafficking organizations from Mexico. Law enforcement made over 80 arrests, served 5 warrants, confiscated 32 weapons, and seized 46 pounds of processed marijuana, 3 vehicles, and over $40,000 cash.
Rangers are seeing more drug trafficking and associated support activity in the National Parks in recent years, Schweizer says. Park Superintendent Craig Axtell calls the marijuana cultivation in the park, a major resource threat.
To underscore the motivation for drug trafficking organizations to grow on remote patches of public lands, the Park Service reports that the 900,000 plants seized over the past two years have an estimated street value of $3.6 billion. There is no stated estimate on how much of the crop is seized and how much passes from seed to the retail market undetected.
In recent years large outdoor farms tied to Mexican drug trafficking organizations have been found in Inyo and Mono Counties at remote sites in the Sierra, the White Mountains and the Glass Mountains. There is no word yet this summer as to any major farms eradicated by local law enforcement in the Eastern Sierra, but the season is still young.