Authorities seized about 120,000 marijuana plants from 113 grow sites in the San Diego area between the beginning of 2013 and this month, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced Monday.
The busts -- which also resulted in 89 arrests and confiscation of about $379,000 worth of trafficker assets -- took place at 58 outdoor sites and 55 indoor ones, according to the DEA.
At least five of those growing busts were reported in Ramona and surrounding rural areas in the last year. In October, 354 marijuana plants were found illegally growing in an open space area in Ramona. Dennis and Deborah Little were charged in March on suspicion of growing 29 marijuana plants outside their home in Ramona, despite claims that they were growing the plants for medical use. Also in October, a sophisticated marijuana grow consisting of 839 plants was discovered in Julian, and a smaller 25-plant grow-operation was busted in July. 433 plants and a hash oil extraction lab were found off Wildcat Canyon Road in Lakeside during the summer.
Over the year, investigators dealt with more hash-oil extraction labs, a growing component of illicit cannabis-cultivation networks. Members of the DEA Narcotics Task Force encountered such operations, which can be dangerously volatile, at about 75 percent of the indoor grow sites they uncovered. About half had resulted in an explosion or fire, according to federal officials.
"We are very concerned about the new trend of hash-oil extraction labs and the increasing number of indoor marijuana grow operations," said DEA San Diego Special Agent in Charge William Sherman.
"These operations are a significant threat to public safety, and this NTF team will continue to investigate these illegal and dangerous cultivation and manufacturing operations, most of which have direct ties to local marijuana dispensary storefronts."
A poll released by Gallup in October showed for the first time that a clear majority of Americans (58%) say marijuana should be legalized.