Raids against illegal marijuana cultivation operations in the desert near Los Angeles have “historically” seized more than $ 1 billion in marijuana, although that amount is only part of the growing illegal product in the region, officials said Wednesday.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the proliferation of illegal marijuana farms in desert areas poses a threat because many are linked to Mexican drug cartels and other organized crime groups. In the 10 days since June 8, Sheriff’s deputies, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other agencies have seized more than 33,000 pounds of collected marijuana plants, 131 arrests and seized 65 vehicles in the Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles.
In addition, 30 places were demolished and 180 animals were rescued. Armed groups are conducting illegal operations in several greenhouses, and operations have been carried out during the coronavirus outbreak.
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“What we want to do is send a clear and loud message to the cartels and those operating in the high desert:‘ Your days are over and we are coming for you, ’” Villanueva told a news conference.
He said the operations disrupted 205 illegal growths, up from 500 to 40% seen in air surveillance. Last year, only 150 illegal growths were detected in the Antelope Valley, he said. More are available in other nearby districts.
“This issue is plaguing the Antelope Valley and could spread throughout Los Angeles County,” said District Attorney Catherine Barger.
Farms that produce illegal boilers are threatening locals and farmers, and toxic chemicals such as pesticides are also threatening water supply in the face of ongoing drought, the sheriff said.
“Garbage, waste, pesticides, the chemicals used fall into the environment, fall into the food chain, affect all of our wildlife, our critics,” he said. “The rubbish is thrown for miles, and the wind carries it across the desert, and its incomparability cannot be calculated.”
In January 2018, the sale of marijuana in California was widely legalized. But the black market is evolving as large amounts of marijuana taxes encourage consumers to look for better deals.
Officials tried to determine the difference between the operation in the Antelope Valley and the legal market.
“This is not a war against the legal cannabis trade in California,” said Mike Garcia, a California spokesman.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.