HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Pot Production On The Rise
Pubdate: Sun, 02 Oct 2005
Source: Herald, The (WA)
Copyright: 2005 The Daily Herald Co.
Author: Shannon Dininny, Associated Press
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Border Crackdowns And Increased Enforcement In Other States Make Remote 
Spots Of Washington Ideal For Growing Marijuana.

ENTIAT - Wary eyes search for rattlesnakes in the desert grasses covering 
the dry hills. The scorched remains of pine trees from an old wildfire loom 
overhead. Then, hidden beneath a thicket of brush, bright green plants 
stand out.

In terraced dirt, nurtured by an elaborate irrigation system, 465 marijuana 
plants are tucked away, obscured by the winding branches of vine maple and 

It's a remote area of north central Washington's Wenatchee National Forest 
bordering the Entiat Wildlife Refuge to the south and an apple orchard to 
the east.

It's also a small plot. Law enforcement officials have seized thousands of 
plants in the state in recent months, forcing them to abandon their ongoing 
battle against methamphetamine for days at a time. Some blame the 
post-Sept. 11 border crackdown that slowed the flow of marijuana from 
western Canada. Others say increasing enforcement efforts in California and 
Oregon are pushing pot production by Mexican nationals north.

Regardless, the gardens, as those who hunt the plants call them, are 
proliferating in counties where huge tracts of open space stretch law 
enforcement resources thin.

Chelan County, home to the largest number of busts this year with about 
35,000 plants confiscated, covers nearly 3,000 square miles - 80 percent of 
it forested federal land.

"This is reality. A marijuana plant averages about 6 feet tall in its 
maturity. We're not going to be able to find it all," said Mike Harum, 
Chelan County sheriff.

"We've done as much as we can financially - our staff and our helicopters - 
to do the best we can. We need help from the federal government, state 

Federal officials have recognized the increase in activity. The U.S. 
Department of Justice noted in July that Mexican drug traffickers were 
expanding their areas of operation, with continued growth expected in 
isolated areas of Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

In particular, federal officials warned local police that central 
Washington's I-90 corridor on the east slope of the Cascade Mountains was a 
growing drug route.

The numbers bear that out. In 2004, law enforcement officials confiscated a 
record 133,936 marijuana plants, pushing the state to No. 5 nationally in 
the number of domestic plants seized. The largest, a field of more than 
60,000 plants on the Yakama Indian Reservation, was traced to organized 
crime in Mexico. Valued at more than $35 million, the grow remains one of 
the largest busts in the nation.

So far this year, police have confiscated more than 82,000 plants entering 
the fall season, when wandering hikers and hunters are likely to stumble 
onto the fields and report them to police. 
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