Pot grows on farmland targeted by law enforcement

FRESNO — Federal and county law enforcement officers, who say the agricultural heartland of California increasingly is being used by people taking advantage of the state's medical marijuana laws, announced Wednesday that a summer-long crackdown has netted 73 arrests.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice and sheriff's officials from six counties announced the results of "Operation Mercury," a multi-agency effort to eradicate large marijuana growing operations from farmland.

Federal officials say operation has netted more than 120,000 plants, 32 guns and 1,500 pounds of processed marijuana.

Officials stressed they were not targeting people growing for legitimate medical need. They said many of the growers had large-scale operations that supplied dealers in other states.

As crackdowns on grows by Mexican cartels in Sierra wilderness areas have reduced activity there, they and other growers have taken advantage of California's medical marijuana laws in an attempt to move to San Joaquin Valley farmland, law enforcement officials said.

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