Drug agents found more than 500 marijuana farms in San Diego County forests and parks since 2007 along with banned pesticides, poisons and discarded equipment used during the grows, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said Tuesday.
Agents in San Diego County seized 1.5 million marijuana plants worth an estimated $3 billion over the past five years. The illicit farms were in areas that included near Palomar Mountain, in Cleveland National Forest, between avocado groves and within walking distance from California State University San Marcos, Duffy said.
The marijuana grows were responsible for the destruction of natural vegetation, Duffy said.
Authorities found makeshift kitchens, sleeping areas and bathrooms. Shotgun shells, discarded irrigation lines and containers from fertilizers, pesticides and poisons smuggled from Mexico that could contaminate the local water supply were also recovered, Duffy said.
Agents found discarded car and motorcycle engines used to charge cell phones during the five-month growing season that ends in October, officials
“Despite individual convictions about marijuana use, as a community we need to consider the damage that mass cultivation inflicts on our precious natural resources,” Duffy said.
“Most people likely have no idea how much marijuana is grown on public lands or that these grows are being operated at the expense of our pristine forests and parks.”
During this year's growing season, the statewide Cannabis Eradication and Reclamation Team cleaned up two grow sites, including the operation near the Cal State San Marcos campus.
The most recent bust in San Diego County was in July when 41,000 plants valued at $82 million were seized in the Warner Springs area. The largest recent farm located was in a remote area of the Cuyamaca Mountains where 80,000 plants worth an estimated $160 million were seized.
Since July 1, authorities in California, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington eradicated about 578,000 plants worth about $1.156 billion from public lands as part of a multi-agency operation called Operation Mountain Sweep.
About 483,000 were found in California. The grow sites were not in San Diego County, although officials said local investigations were ongoing.
—City News Service