HURRICANE – Thursday, representatives from the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Land Management and local law enforcement agencies summarized the recent crackdown on marijuana grow sites in Southern Utah. Along with the collection of plants seized, firearms and valuable forest lands were reclaimed as well.
The grow sites are considered dangerous to the public because they are often maintained by individuals who have entered this country illegally, carry illegal firearms, have criminal histories and are tied to drug cartels.
“These cases are resource-intensive,” United States Attorney David Barlow said. “There isn’t one agency, state or federal, that can handle them alone.”
Grows also have negative environmental impacts due to the amount of fertilizers used, which have the potential to poison nearby water supplies and disrupt the balance of the area’s ecosystem. Growers often pump water miles into the wilderness, which cuts into already scarce water resources.
The revenue generated by these grows often leads to an increase in violent gang and cartel activity.
“(Grows are) the largest yielding profit a cartel has,” DEA Special Agent Frank Smith said. “If you (combine) their heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine, it still doesn’t come to the total amount of revenue produced by marijuana grows.”
The combined efforts of the agencies involved in the crackdown have been aggressive, thorough and effective in reducing the number of grows in this area, and minimizing the amount of illegal profit gained at the cost of Southern Utah’s lands and public safety. According to statistics released by the Utah Department of Justice, 52 illegal grow sites have been raided and 77 related arrests have been made in the last five years. These grows contained over 372,000 plants, each with an estimated street value of $2,000.
The zero-tolerance policy being enforced by area officials in regards to these grow sites has had a measurable impact on associated crime. Although this is an ongoing battle, the combined efforts of those involved continue to keep Utah safe, as well as set a precedent to other states in their fight against the drug trade.
“That’s what we are out there trying to protect,” said Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher. “We want to make sure our citizens are taken care of, that they can go out and recreate and enjoy the public lands we have here in Utah.”
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