YREKA — The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office has reported seizing more than $375 million in illegal cannabis so far this year, with additional marijuana raids expected this week.
In a news release Monday, the sheriff’s office said 27,072 cannabis plants and 12,570 pounds of processed marijuana have been seized during 2017 by the Siskiyou Interagency Marijuana Investigation Team (SIMIT).
The plants totaled $324.8 million and the processed marijuana $50.2 million, based on values within the illegal cannabis market. Most seizures occurred in the areas of Shasta Vista, Klamath River Country Estates, Weed, Lake Shastina, Montague, Big Springs, Mt. Shasta Forest, Mt. Shasta, Copco Lake and Butte Valley.
More recently, between Oct. 12 and Saturday, more than 5,000 pounds of plants and processed marijuana were seized at locations including Mt. Shasta Vista, Mt. Shasta Forest, Klamath River Country Estates and Butte Valley. The sheriff’s office said additional seizures are planned for this week.
Sheriff Jon Lopey said, as marijuana is typically harvested this time of year, his office is encountering a larger number of mature plants and processed cannabis than normal.
“There is also mounting evidence of large-scale, organized crime efforts to finance the numerous illicit grow sites that have been observed or eradicated,” he said.
California legalized recreational marijuana last year, but a Siskiyou County ordinance passed in 2015 allows only for medical marijuana cultivation. Lopey said his office is seeking no enforcement action against growers abiding by state and local laws.
Since forming SIMIT in September of last year, Lopey’s office has encountered numerous grow operations, seizing as many as 2,985 plants on a single parcel. His efforts were met with an attempted bribe by a pair of marijuana traffickers, who were arrested in August for allegedly offering Lopey $1 million to turn a blind eye.
Amid these circumstances, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors declared a state of emergency, paving the way for state and federal resources to assist in marijuana enforcement.
In addition to the support of organized crime, Lopey said illegal marijuana grows pose natural hazards including the use of felling of trees, illegal diversion of water, and contamination from garbage, raw sewage, pesticides and fertilizers. Illegal campfires on grow sites have also posed hazards during a particularly destructive fire season on the West Coast.