Huge raid in Emerald Triangle, thousands of cannabis plants destroyed

By Oscar Pascual |

Sheriff’s deputies from multiple Northern California law enforcement agencies have spent the majority of the week eradicating thousands of pot plants in what’s being considered the raid of the decade.

Officials from the counties of Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity — three of the key counties comprising the Emerald Triangle, the nation’s cannabis basket — have teamed up to serve search warrants on multiple illegal grow sites throughout the region since Tuesday morning, the Times-Standard reports.

Over the past two days, deputies have destroyed around 15,300 marijuana plants while serving four warrants. The current operation is expected to last until Friday, in what’s being considered as the region’s largest police raid in a decade. Similar operations are being scheduled throughout the next four months.

These raids are so far being conducted with no federal involvement, but instead with the help of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. In the wake of multiple scientific studies outlining cannabis cultivation’s supposed toll on the environment, these raids are in response to grows that may be diverting water, stealing water or grading land without a permit, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Wayne Hanson told the Times-Standard.

“What we’ve seen are several reservoirs … that deal with mountain stream and springs being diverted into ponds and used for unlawful cultivation,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife Lt. Chris Stoots in an interview with the Times-Standard.

Illegal grow tactics have changed in the past 15 years, all of which have become more and more threatening to the environment, law enforcement officials say. Growers use diesel generators to power indoor grow facilities, which leads to diesel spills and oil dumping. Greenhouse growers also use massive amounts of fertilizer that can leak into the watershed and cause algae blooms, according to officials.

Legitimate growers dismissed the environmental degradation claims as more of the same from pot-hating cops.

“[T]his is the same type of activity that traumatized me and the children of our community at an early age,” said Hezekiah Allen, chairman of the lobbying organization Emerald Growers Association. “This is the same type of activity that has broken families and plagued communities.”

“The environmental impacts are very real and we need to address them,” he added. “But this is the same war that they have been fighting for decades.”

No arrests were made, due to the fact that the growers have an early warning system where people call those up the road whenever official vehicles are seen, law enforcement officials said.

“That’s been happening for years … . It looks like I-5 during rush hour,” Hanson told the Times-Standard, referring to back-roads packed with fleeing vehicles prior to the police department’s arrival. “We don’t need to have anybody around to prove who lives there.”

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