Pubdate: Thu, 21 Aug 2003
Source: Yakima Herald-Republic (WA)
Copyright: 2003 Yakima Herald-Republic
Author: Mark Morey


A task force of Yakima Valley drug agencies announced Wednesday that an 
annual exercise has resulted in the destruction of about 12,000 marijuana 
plants at 11 growing sites since last week.

It's the largest haul they can recall in 10 years of coordinating the 
eradication program and doesn't include another 4,500 plants eliminated at 
two separate spots as recently as Tuesday.

Doug Hintze, a Washington State Patrol sergeant who supervises the Lower 
Valley task force known as Law Enforcement Against Drugs, said the total 
may grow as officers attempt to find a third location that they learned about.

Hintze said he's not sure whether the large number of plants discovered 
means more marijuana is being grown or more is being found. No major 
changes seem to have taken place in the local market, he said.

Late summer brings the peak of the outdoor marijuana season. The state sets 
a $1,000 value for each plant, said Yakima police Sgt. Mike Costello, 
supervisor of the City-County Narcotics Unit, the Yakima-based task force 
that participated.

Additional agencies included the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 
Yakama Nation police, the Yakima County Sheriff's Office and the National 
Guard, which provides a helicopter for observation flights.

The first of the recent major busts included in the overall count was last 
month in Klickitat County, where the DEA arrested three men suspected of 
running a 4,000-plant operation.

Shortly before that case, Klickitat County sheriff's deputies arrested two 
men in connection with a grow operation involving about 500 plants.

No arrests were made during the annual exercise itself, officials said.
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