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Shifting tactics in illegal pot cultivation

  • Terry Wright, a Deputy Probation officer with Marin County, removes illegal marijuana from a house on Eddy Drive in Santa Rosa, California on Wednesday, September 26, 2012. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

The amount of marijuana ripped from illegal back-country gardens by statewide eradication teams has plummeted for the second year in a row, a reflection of changing growing habits and reduced enforcement.

As California's outdoor marijuana growing season comes to a close, numbers released by state officials shows eradication teams have destroyed about 1.5 million plants, mostly from federal forests. That's less than half of last year's haul.

But in a Santa Rosa neighborhood, authorities Friday were still chopping down towering pot plants following a lengthy investigation into widespread backyard pot cultivation.

Marijuana Raids In Santa Rosa

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The massive sweep of 33 residential marijuana gardens launched this week may be evidence that some cultivation efforts are shifting closer to populated areas.

"They are moving it in and growing much larger plants," said Sonoma County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Gossett, who runs the agency's narcotics team.

In Mendocino County, deputies tore down more than 400 plants Wednesday from a property in central Covelo in Round Valley. "This was in downtown Covelo," Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said. "We're changing our investigations to go after people moving into neighborhoods."

Authorities across the North Coast this year reported spotting fewer of the massive back-country gardens they used to find in the rugged forests.

Medical marijuana laws may have coaxed some illegal pot cultivation out of the forests and nearer to water access and supplies, investigators said.

State Parks rangers found no pot gardens this year in the Russian River district, where large gardens were discovered in the past in parks such as Austin Creek State Recreation Area north of Guerneville, said Jenny Donovan, public safety superintendent.

Instead, rangers have focused on removing irrigation hoses, trash and other remains from deserted camps.


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