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Pot farm fire reveals a troubling trend PDF Imprimir Correo electrónico
Escrito por Scott McNeely   
Martes 18 de Agosto de 2009 12:48
Drug rings' operations in the state and federal forests are becoming more sophisticated, officials say.

Narcotics agents said Tuesday they had little doubt that the nearly 90,000-acre La Brea fire was started by Mexican drug traffickers who were tending a large, sophisticated marijuana farm planted on the side of a mountain.


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30,000 marijuana plants found at site linked to Santa Barbara County fire [updated] PDF Imprimir Correo electrónico
Escrito por Catherine Saillant   
Miércoles 19 de Agosto de 2009 08:19
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, speaking at a news conference today, said investigators believe the La Brea fire was started by Mexican drug traffickers because of the size of the marijuana garden and the equipment found at the campsite...
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Narcotics agents face constant fight to eradicate remote pot farms PDF Imprimir Correo electrónico
Escrito por Scott McNeely   
Lunes 17 de Agosto de 2009 08:50
U.S. Forest Service rangers work with state and federal narcotics agents each summer to find and root out large marijuana farms that sprout in a March-to-October growing season, said Vicki Collins, a Forest Service spokeswoman.

This is the time of year when the biggest plants are found, she said.

"It seems like it’s occurring more and more on national forestlands,’’ she said.

Federal agents say the prevalence of pot farms is tied to Mexican drug cartels, which use forestlands to camouflage large operations. Low-paid workers are transported into the forests early in the season, tending large marijuana gardens throughout the summer.

Makeshift camps are often littered with propane tanks used to cook food. Collins said the La Brea fire is the first she can recall that was started by a campfire used by drug growers.

Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Horne said growers prefer propane because open fires or barbecues send up smoke that can identify their positions. The growers typically are armed to ward off would-be thieves, and are viewed as potentially violent, said Horne, a 10-year veteran of the narcotics unit who has spent the last few weeks confiscating plants in a different part of the Los Padres National Forest.

This summer, agents patrolling Los Padres confiscated weapons that included a .22 rifle, a .38 handgun and an AK-47, Horne said.

"I can’t remember a garden where we didn’t find some evidence of weapons,’’ he said. "They are involved in the drug trade, which is inherently violent."

Ventura County’s squad has pulled 50,000 plants in forest locations and is on track to eradicate 20,000 more before the season’s end, Horne said. That would be a record for the Sheriff’s Department, he said.

Federal drug agents last fall eradicated nearly 3 million plants across the nation, a record haul that represented a 25% increase over 2007. More than two-thirds of the pot was found in state and national forests and other public lands, authorities said.

In recent weeks, narcotics agents have spread out to intercept operations in deeply forested areas across the state. More than 10,000 plants were pulled from the San Bernardino National Forest in early July. The suspects fled and could not be located.

A few weeks later, agents arrested dozens of people and seized weapons at multiple sites in the Sierra foothills east of Fresno. They destroyed tens of thousands of pot plants, according to the Fresno Bee. One camp had 8,393 plants with a street value of $3.3 million, the report said.

-- Catherine Saillant

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LA City Council Harshing Your Medical Pot Mellow? PDF Imprimir Correo electrónico
Escrito por City News Service   
Martes 02 de Junio de 2009 17:26

 

LOS ANGELES (CNS)  -- A Los Angeles City Council committee today will consider eliminating a loophole that would allow nearly 500 medical marijuana dispensaries to operate despite a temporary ban that went into effect in the fall of 2007.

Two years ago, the city council approved a temporary moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries. The purpose of the interim ordinance, which will expire on Sept. 14, was to give city leaders time to draft regulations that limit where and how dispensaries can operate in Los Angeles.

California voters 13 years ago approved Proposition 215, which made it legal to sell marijuana to certain patients with a doctor's prescription.

The drug is still considered illegal under federal law and Drug Enforcement Administration agents have raided dispensaries throughout Southern California. But Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced those raids would end.

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Huge Santa Barbara County wildfire caused by marijuana farm; suspects at large in forest PDF Imprimir Correo electrónico
Escrito por Scott McNeely   
Lunes 17 de Agosto de 2009 08:50
A fire that has burned more than 75,000 acres in Santa Barbara County over the last week was started in an illegal marijuana growing area operated by a Mexican drug organization, authorities said.

Authorities said they confirmed that the blaze, which is burning out of control, started in a cooking area of the pot farm. They believe those responsible are still in the forest area trying leave the forest by foot. 

"The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit has confirmed that the camp at the origin of the fire was an illegal marijuana operation believed to be run by a Mexican national drug organization," according to a statement from the Los Padres National Forest. "The Narcotics Unit has been working in the area within the last month eradicating other nearby marijuana cultivation sites." 

The location of those who ran the pot farm isn't known, but forest officials warn "not to approach anyone who looks suspicious but to instead contact the nearest law enforcement agency."

The fire, known as the La Brea fire, is now 25% contained. Vicki Collins, a fire information spokeswoman at Los Padres, said that although the La Brea fire was only 10% contained by Friday night, firefighters successfully charred some lines in front of the fire in the Tepusquet Canyon area, depriving the blaze of new fuel. 

Since the fire started Aug. 8, about 234 residences have been evacuated. Collins said if firefighting efforts continue to be successful, residents might be able to get back into their homes within a couple of days. Progress has been slow on this fire because of the low humidity, 90-degree temperatures and remote terrain. 

She said they still have no crews on the ground in some wilderness areas, such as the Sisquoc River area.

 “We have a lot of work ahead of us yet, though things are looking fairly good on a couple flanks of this fire,” Collins said. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger met with firefighters in the Santa Cruz Mountains who have been battling the Lockheed fire. 

That blaze, which started Wednesday, has burned nearly 7,000 acres. By this morning, the fire was 30% contained, officials said. About 2,400 people have been evacuated in areas including Swanton and Bonny Doon.

 “I want the people here in these communities to know that we will do everything in our power in order to save properties, to save lives and to save their memories,” Schwarzenegger said. “The important thing is also to follow the evacuation orders.” Schwarzenegger said there are 11 fires currently burning across California. He defended the state's investment in fire resources even though it is in a budget crisis. 

Del Walters, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection director who spoke at the news conference with the governor, said he worried that the incoming winds and high temperatures in Northern California could worsen the Lockheed fire and also the Corral fire in San Joaquin County. 

That fire has blackened about 15,000 acres and was 20% contained by this morning. 

-- Shelby Grad and Jia-Rui Chong


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