Obama’s war on weed isn’t just affecting medical marijuana dispensaries and patients.
The federal crackdown on California cannabis has pushed growers conducting illegal harvests on public lands to neighboring states, authorities announced Tuesday.
As a result, officials have embarked on a multi-agency effort to target pot farms across the western United States. “Operation Mountain Sweep” aims to crack down on marijuana growing in seven states west of the Rockies.
“Because of the pressure that we’re putting on these organizations here in California, there may be an uptick in some other states,” Sacramento’s U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said at a news conference.
Operation Mountain Sweep has nabbed $1 billion worth of marijuana plants since its inception eight weeks ago, according to the Los Angeles Times. California still produced the most pot, with 734,000 plants seized.
But other western states saw an uptick in operations. The Associated Press reports:
[Federal agents] destroyed nearly 48,000 plants in Idaho, 25,000 in Arizona, 19,000 in Washington, 18,000 in Nevada, nearly 10,000 in Utah, but just 300 in Oregon, as of last week. The operation will continue through the end of the month.
The Department of Justice’s aggressive crackdown on California’s marijuana industry, which began last fall, has had dire consequences for the state. Hundreds of dispensaries have been forced to close and thousands of jobs have been lost, leaving patients without easy access to their medicine.
A recent video produced by Harborside Health Center, dubbed “the nation’s largest pot shop” and also under federal pressure to shut down, featured cancer patients discussing their fear of buying marijuana on the street.
Still, authorities are quick to tout the success of Operation Mountain Sweep, noting that efforts have spared national parks like Death Valley and Sequoia from an unpleasant fate.
“Marijuana trafficking organizations seek to turn our nation’s parks and public lands into their own drug havens,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart in a statement. “Operation Mountain Sweep is a concerted effort to reclaim these wild and beautiful areas and protect them from further destruction and exploitation.”