Season for Marijuana Grows to Begin, Law Enforcement Cracking Down on Increasing Number of Farms

marijuana grow
A marijuana grow in Pine Valley in 2010. | Photo by Jen Watkins | St. George News

SOUTHERN UTAH – The U.S. Attorney’s Office, along with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and other local agencies, held a press conference today to address their concerns of the growing number of marijuana farms in the area.

Melodie Rydalch from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said the “season is about to start again” for marijuana grows. She said law enforcement’s biggest concern is for the safety of the public.

“We have reason to believe some of these (grows) are tied to Mexican Cartels,” she said. “That is not a situation you want to put yourself in.”

Many of the workers in charge of the marijuana farms are dangerous, she said, and many of them are here illegally.

Rydalch said if someone sees a grow, or indication of a grow, such as drips, irrigation, bags of fertilizer, to immediately leave the area and call law enforcement. Many of the areas are protected by firearms, she said, and are very dangerous.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has prosecuted many of the cases last year to try and curb the growing problem.

“One of the people working at a marijuana grow that was arrested had a warrant for two homicides in Nevada,” she said.

In 2010, 106,573 marijuana plants were seized from 17 growing operations, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office – an increase of 27 percent from 2009. Eleven of those operations were located in Washington County.

Twenty-four arrests were made last year, a 140 percent increase from the previous year, and more than $215 million worth of marijuana was seized, as well as firearms.

“This is an ever increasing problem in our society,” Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher said. “They are doing damage to our public lands. Damage to our community.”

Pulsipher it will be a team effort of all the agencies involved “if we are going to win this war and get this stuff out of our community.”

Those partnerships include the DEA, Utah Department of Public Safety, U.S. Forest Service, BLM, ICE, Washington County Area Task Force, St. George Police, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Iron County Sheriff’s Office, Beaver County Sheriff’s Office, Kane County Sheriff’s Office, Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, Central Utah Narcotics Task Force, Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, Iron-Garfield Task Force, Utah National Guard and several local police departments.

email jwatkins@stgnews.com

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2011, all rights reserved.

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