Articles

Major Marijuana Seized, 11 Arrested

By Logan Hall

The veritable war that law enforcement has waged on marijuana growers seems to be never-ending, and the mountains above Ojai have often been the battlegrounds. Until recently, however, most of the marijuana eradications in the area have not involved the arrests of the individuals connected with the growing operations. In the last year, Ventura County Sheriff’s  narcotics officers have put an emphasis on catching the growers themselves, along with the eradication of the marijuana plants.
On July 21, the narcotics officers seized more than 23,400 marijuana plants and arrested 11 suspects believed to be involved with the large-scale growing operation that included several marijuana growing sites along Highway 33 to the north of the Ojai Valley. Two of the suspects were arrested at the grow sites while the others were found nearby. Authorities were able to link all 11 suspects to the plants that were seized.
In past years, although seizing thousands of plants, authorities have had difficulty in making arrests of the people involved in the gardens. Now, after adapting their tactics to counter those of the growers, the department has successfully made 34 arrests since 2009.
The next step for authorities is to go after those who are running the growing operation. “We always like to get to the top of the food chain,” said Narcotics Bureau Sgt. Mike Horne. “The people that we arrested are pretty low on the seniority list. They’re mostly farm worker types, but we are looking for a connection to the top.”
One of the main concerns of officials is the seizure of weapons when the arrests were made. Marijuana growers are often armed in order to protect their crops from potential invaders. The danger lies when unsuspecting citizens stumble into a grow area and accidentally confront the armed growers.
According to Horne, two of the suspects on July 21 were armed, one with a .380 caliber semi-automatic handgun, and the other with a .22 caliber long rifle. “We often find weapons or evidence of weapons at the grow sites or when we make the arrests,” said Horne. “Last year we got a guy that had an AK-47.”
Since the time of the arrests, there have been no further developments in the prosecution of the suspects. “Right now we’re putting the reports together,” said Horne. “We haven’t found anymore grows in that area that we can tie to the same guys.”
The Narcotics Bureau spends a lot of time and effort in trying to put an end to the pot-growing activity in Ojai’s mountains. The eradication process alone takes considerable manpower and the investigations can last months. The department works closely with other agencies to help curtail the multi-million-dollar growing operations. “We use the U.S. Forest Service law enforcement division for surveillance and eradication,” said Horne. “and we also utilize the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (C.A.M.P.) in our eradications. The Forest Service is a big help and C.A.M.P. can cut more weed than anyone I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Although much progress has been made in the ongoing battle, authorities seem to constantly be playing cat and mouse with the growers. “We have some historical grow sites that we check every year,” said Horne. “After we eradicate the grow, they’ll go back and use the site again. We have to stay on top of them.”
Horne and his team are hoping to eradicate more pot-growing sites and make more arrests before the season is over. Last year, the Narcotics Bureau seized 11,100 plants with an estimated street value of $16 million in a similar bust of two large marijuana cultivation sites in Matilija Canyon. That helped make 2009 a record year for marijuana eradication with about 110,000 plants seized along with 23 arrests made. With the marijuana growing season still in full swing and more than 70,000 plants seized so far, Horne is hoping to have another record year of weed eradication and arrests.

The veritable war that law enforcement has waged on marijuana growers seems to be never-ending, and the mountains above Ojai have often been the battlegrounds. Until recently, however, most of the marijuana eradications in the area have not involved the arrests of the individuals connected with the growing operations. In the last year, Ventura County Sheriff’s  narcotics officers have put an emphasis on catching the growers themselves, along with the eradication of the marijuana plants. On July 21, the narcotics officers

Register to read more ...

Advertise on our site