Massive Valley Marijuana Bust

August 5, 2008 8:20:14 PM PDT
Local and federal law enforcement officials say they've taken more than $1.4 billion dollars worth of marijuana off the streets. This South Valley bust is so big, the White House Drug Czar came to Visalia to talk about it. The bust is part of Operation "L.O.C.C.U.S.T." Last year, the Tulare County Sheriff's office had a record seizure of more than 330,000 illegal marijuana plants. Operation L.O.C.C.U.S.T. eradicated 10,000 more plants that that in the last week.

Aerial video taken early Tuesday morning shows the massive amounts of gardens and thousands of marijuana plants growing illegally in our local national parks. U.S. Drug Czar John Walters says, these operations are mostly the work of Mexican drug cartels who make money here and spread fear in their home country.

John Walters says, "They're killers that live in Mexico who want to challenge the government, who want to use terror in the form of beheading."

Walters himself went out to Sequoia National Forest to help pull out some of the more than 340,000 plants seized in the last week. Operation L.O.C.C.U.S.T. stands for "Location Organized Cannabis Cultivators Using Saturation Tactics." The operation is made up of 14 different local, state and federal agencies and more than 220 officers who are still working this day on the ongoing project.

Along with the literally tons of trash left behind from the cartels' camps, were 27 miles of hose that took water from national springs to irrigate the marijuana gardens.

U.S. Attorney McGregor Scot says, "I'm talking about stream diverting, the killing of animals, mass pesticides and chemicals that are occurring in our forests, the terracing of national parks."

Officials also brought along more than 6,000 marijuana plants seized in the last week. They say operation of the gardens is highly organized, and have arrested 36 people on felony charges for cultivating marijuana.

Tulare County Sheriff Bill Wittman says, "We will continue to go on from this day forward. We will continue to take out plants. We think we've got about 83 gardens that were located, we think we have about 20 to 23 more gardens left."

There is no "end date" to operation L.O.C.C.U.S.T. and officials say they will continue to try and get rid of up to 60,000 more plants they say are up there. Officials say Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have the biggest illegal marijuana garden problem than any other national park.

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