San Diego Officers Seize 132,000 Marijuana Plants in 2014
Federal and local law enforcement personnel have seized nearly 132,000 marijuana plants from more than 100 illicit cultivation sites in the San Diego area this year, authorities reported Wednesday.
As part of their efforts to combat local cannabis trafficking, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, sheriff's deputies and other officers also have arrested 129 suspects and impounded assets valued at roughly $323,000 so far in 2014.
Creation of hash oil, a process that typically involves butane, is "a significant threat to public safety," according to William Sherman, special agent in charge of the San Diego DEA office.
"We remain very concerned about the indoor cultivation of marijuana and hash-oil extraction labs," Sherman said.
Michael Cindrich, a member of the marijuana advocacy group Norml, said the numbers "are misrepresented."
“I think its ridiculous for anyone to say that meth and pot are similar or the same," Cindrich said.
But, officials said that marijuana collectives attract violence.
“We know, we’ve known all along what happens with drug dealers. It doesn’t change because we want to call it a dispensary," said assistant district attorney Stacy McReynolds. "It doesn’t change because we want to call it an edible. It doesn’t change because we want to call it medicine.”
In all, the agencies removed about 58,900 marijuana plants from public land in San Diego County between Jan. 1 and early December, DEA officials announced during a late-morning briefing. Investigators also broke up 50 indoor growing operations, 66 percent of which included hazardous "hash oil" extraction setups.
Seven of the latter operations had resulted in fires or explosions, an ever-present risk posed by the makeshift labs.