Marijuana seizures in California could eclipse last year’s record haul of seven million pot plants, according to law enforcement officials and local reports from ongoing eradication operations.
With the major fall pot harvest fast approaching, law enforcement agencies are reporting busts of unprecedented size, especially at large-scale grow sites in remote locations.
Earlier this month a senior federal drug official speculated that 2010 seizures could top eight million plants if agents continue to uncover massive outdoor operations through the end of the growing season.
The Shasta County Sheriff’s office reported it destroyed some 300,000 plants in the first three weeks of July. That’s about half the total amount of pot seized in the county in 2009, according to figures from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency's Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program.
Also last month, federal authorities said more than 465,000 marijuana plants were destroyed as part of Operation Trident, a multi-agency task force targeting illegal growers in Madera, Fresno and Tulare county. The three-county total for all of 2009 was 734,000 plants.
Meanwhile, Mendocino Sheriff Tom Allman predicts pot seizures in his county could surpass one million plants this year, nearly double the 2009 figure. “It’s hard to imagine people growing more pot than what is being grown right now,” Allman said.
To put California's pot bonanza in context, in 2000 authorities seized a little more than 700,000 marijuana plants in the entire state, according to the DEA. Last year's haul was 10 times that amount.