OPB / Tom Banse / 12,23,2011
Federal, state and local drug agents uprooted fewer marijuana plants on public lands in the Northwest this year . Police agencies speculate that outdoor pot gardeners are being driven away by stepped up law enforcement pressure. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.
It’s not like the cops and rangers are looking less. Aerial surveillance and boots on the ground during this year’s marijuana growing season matched previous years, but they found fewer plants hidden on public forest and rangelands.
Chris Gibson is the multi-agency drug task force director in Oregon. He says concerted pressure may be scaring off illegal growers.
"It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that the impact they made last year would cause those groups who may want to come into that area to grow again, not to come back," Gibson says.
Gibson and his counterpart in Washington state say chilly weather also made for a poor growing season in 2011. Last year, Oregon agencies seized more than 188,000 pot plants from outdoor grows. The preliminary numbers for this year are 30 percent less.
For Washington state, seizures peaked in 2009 at around 600,000 plants. It fell sharply last year to 300,000 and stayed around that level again this year.
Idaho State Police said Friday that statistics for outdoor marijuana garden busts in Idaho in 2011 are not yet available. In 2010, just over 20,000 pot plants were destroyed at outdoor grows in Idaho.
Electrical usage at a an all-time high in the region.