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Yuba-sutter Pot Busts Nosedive

Smokin Moose

Fallen Cannabis Warrior
Marijuana Seizures Soar in State, Sour Locally

Marijuana seizures nearly doubled this year in California, setting a record, but shriveled in Yuba and Sutter counties.

While Yuba-Sutter law enforcement officials normally can be found posing with piles of confiscated pot, this year a mere 1,001 plants were seized in rural areas, according to Mike Hudson, the new commander of the Yuba-Sutter Narcotic Enforcement Team, or NET-5.

All of the 1,001 plants, described as low-quality or "just crappy" by one law enforcement official, came from a seizure near Robbins in September. The growers had fled and no one was arrested.

That compares with 21,846 plants seized in 2006, said Hudson, who took over Nov. 1.

Statewide, almost 3 million plants were seized, a record and almost double the previous record of 1.7 million in 2006.

Officials cited no large seizures in the foothills of Yuba County, a traditional growing area.

Yuba County Sheriff Steve Durfor said his department's own marijuana eradication team seized 85 plants and about 15 pounds of processed marijuana but, unlike previous years, did not find gardens with plants numbering in the thousands.

"I don't know that ( large gardens ) have necessarily disappeared," said Durfor.

Personnel turnover at NET-5 was one reason for the local dropoff in seizures, said Hudson, the agency's third commander this year.

Long-time Commander Bill Olson left earlier this year and was replaced by an interim commander until Hudson took over.

NET-5 commanders are employees of the state Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement Team, members of which are on loan from five area law enforcement agencies.

Another reason for the decline, Hudson said, is that the state Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, which beefs up local pot-finding efforts, switched its focus this year to Shasta County.

Shasta, Lake, Humboldt, Mendocino and Tulare are considered the top growing areas in the state.

Sutter County Undersheriff J. Paul Parker said his department, in cooperation with NET-5, has done flyovers of the Sutter Bypass and other areas where large pot fields have been found in the past. The chances that any large fields went unnoticed this year are "pretty remote," he said.

The concern remains that someone will stumble on a field being protected by booby traps and armed guards, he said.

In Colusa County, Lt. Doug Turner of the Sheriff's Department said about 17,000 plants were destroyed this year, compared to a record 40,000 the previous year.

Reconnaissance flights early this year indicated 60,000 or more plants might be seized, particularly from foothills in western Colusa County where marijuana activity is "crazy," said Turner. But growers took advantage of an early spring to plant early and harvest early, sometimes as early as April, and plants were cut and removed earlier than expected, he said.

A drought later in the year killed other plants.

"We don't cut dead plants," said Turner.

Almost all the plants seized in recent years were grown by a "heavy influx" of Mexicans. There have been no confrontations between growers and locals stumbling on hidden gardens, he said.

"It's crazy," said Turner. "We do what we can."

Parker suggested that one reason seizures are off this year is "straw houses" in Sacramento County -- houses purchased specifically for indoor marijuana growing. Growers may need fewer outdoor gardens in areas like Sutter County, he said.

Durfor said flyovers by his department revealed 60 medical marijuana gardens, all of which proved legal.

Incidents in which thieves raid legal pot gardens are on the rise in Yuba-Sutter.

Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2007 Appeal-Democrat
Contact: Appeal-Democrat.com : Letters to the Editor
Website: Appeal-Democrat.com : Homepage
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