News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 29, 2006
Contact: Jeff Eig
206-553-1411

Washington State Marijuana Eradication Efforts
More Than 130,000 Marijuana Plants Destroyed in 2006

DEC 29 -- Seattle, Washington – Rodney G. Benson, Special Agent in Charge, Seattle Field Division, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Chief John R Batiste, Washington State Patrol, announced the results of the Washington Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program (DCE/SP) for 2006. To date, the DCE/SP program has worked closely with dozens of State and Local law enforcement agencies around Washington State to eradicate more than 130,000 indoor and outdoor marijuana plants. Investigations stemming from the discovery of these marijuana grows has resulted in the arrest of 342 individuals and the seizure of 190 weapons.

With reports of seizures still coming in, this year will see an increase from the previous 2005 record of over 135,000 plants. This increase can be attributed, at least in part, to a stepped up effort in targeting growers who continue to try and circumvent law enforcement’s eradication efforts by cultivating smaller marijuana plots in different locations using a variety of concealment methods. Additionally, law enforcement throughout Washington State has also successfully targeted organized indoor marijuana grow organizations, in particular Asian affiliated drug trafficking organizations, which have moved into Washington State from Canada in an effort to avoid stepped up border security. “Washington State is susceptible to both outdoor marijuana growers, who typically use and damage public lands to ply their illegal trade, and previously Canadian based indoor cultivators attempting to avoid cross border detection,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Rodney Benson. “This two pronged assault on the state of Washington endangers our communities, environment, and our young people. This year’s success in eradicating a record amount of marijuana plants can be credited to citizen tips and to the hard work of the men and women of the DEA, Washington State Patrol, United States Forest Service and numerous state, county, and local law enforcement agencies.”

This year in particular law enforcement witnessed an increase in damage done to private and public lands by outdoor marijuana cultivators throughout the state of Washington. Outdoor growers dammed streams, clear-cut forest lands, used large quantities of insecticide, and killed indigenous wildlife. At one location investigators found an impaled western pygmy owl, a protected species under federal law. In other locations numerous animal carcasses and feathers were found near fire pits indicating that marijuana cultivators ate the animals available in the areas where they operated.

Chief John R. Batiste stated “this year’s success is a testament to the strong working relationships between law enforcement at all levels as well as with the National Guard.” Citizens were also involved in this success through their reporting of Marijuana grows to the Marijuana Hot Line at 1-800-388-GROW. Additional information reference the DCE/SP is available on the web at www.wsp.wa.gov

The Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program (DCE/SP), which has been in existence since 1984, is tasked with removing domestically grown marijuana throughout the state. Federal money is given to selected counties around the state to support the marijuana eradication . City, County, State and Federal officers frequently utilize DEA and National Guard helicopters to fly in likely growing areas to spot grows. Units on the ground conduct follow-up investigation making arrests when possible and removing the plants for destruction.

The WSP maintains a hotline where tips reference marijuana grows can be given to law enforcement. The hotline number is 1-800-388-GROW. Citizens can remain anonymous and be paid up to $5,000 dollars depending on the number of plants discovered. The hotline program is designed to elicit additional information to law enforcement that would not normally be reported. For more information about the marijuana hotline program, please contact Lieutenant Richard A. Wiley, Narcotics Section at (360) 507-0453.

Contact Special Agent Jeffrey Eig for disks containing video images and still photographs.