VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. - The Ventura County Sheriff’s Narcotics Bureau, in partnership with the Sheriff’s SWAT Team and the Sheriff’s Aviation Unit, completed 18 illegal marijuana cultivation investigations in and around the Los Padres National Forest in Northern Ventura County.
Deputies reported locating 74,600 marijuana plants and 1,500 pounds of harvested marijuana during the investigations.
Eleven suspects were arrested and 84 firearms were seized at the grow sites.
The sheriff's office said these numbers show a significant increase in plants, processed marijuana, firearms and arrests compared to previous years.
Deputies said the marijuana cultivation sites are often littered with legal and illegal pesticides and herbicides as well as trash.
Natural vegetation in the area is also removed and the land is terraced which causes erosion. Water is then diverted from streams to water the marijuana plants before becoming contaminated with poisons that eventually runoff into Ventura County watersheds.
Investigators said it is not uncommon for them to find carbofuran in the grow sites, a pesticide that was banned in the US in 2010 for being toxic to people and animals.
Human trafficking, labor trafficking, illegal firearms, drugs like methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and dangerous butane honey oil labs are also commonly associated with marijuana cultivation sites.
Most sites are located miles away from roads or trails. Law enforcement personnel travel to the sites by helicopter before hauling marijuana, trash and supplies out of the grow sites.
The sheriff's office said the thousands of pounds of marijuana and trash are then taken to a refuge disposal site and buried.
The Ventura County Sheriff's Office receives grant funding from the US Forest Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration to locate, investigate and eradicate illegal marijuana cultivation sites in the Los Padres National Forest.
Anyone with information about illegal marijuana cultivation or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit at 805-383-8700 or the Ventura County Crime Stoppers Tip Line 800-222-8477.