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Laguna Beach

Police Files

Black market marijuana farm discovered in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, open space damaged

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and Orange County Parks just completed a massive cleanup of a black market marijuana grow discovered late last year at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, according to a release issued by CDFW.

The black market marijuana grow was discovered on September 27, 2018 by CDFW during routine flights over Orange County with the National Guard’s Counter Drug Unit. Following the discovery, Newport Beach Police Department conducted an eradication mission at the site. Attempts to apprehend the suspects were unsuccessful.

According to CDFW, officers eradicated 500 plants and confiscated 75 pounds of processed marijuana. The grow, when in full production, contained almost 1,500 plants. During the eradication, CDFW documented numerous environmental violations including streambed alterations, haphazard pesticides left on the property, trash within 150 feet of a waterway, and a poached deer.

 According to Laguna Canyon Foundation Executive Director Hallie Jones, the grow area was well-hidden in a remote part of the 7,000 acre park, and caused significant habitat damage to our endangered coastal sage scrub habitat.

“Growers remove native plants and cause additional damage by creating trails and using chemicals on the marijuana plants. This grow site will require extensive repair and mitigation to restore the destroyed habitat,” said Jones in a statement to Stu News on Thursday.

“Passive restoration, in which we remove the problem and let the plants re-establish themselves, will take years. The rains this winter will help, and within a few years we should be hard-pressed to identify exact sites,” Jones continued.

The team cleanup effort was conducted in two phases, in December and January, and included the removal of approximately 3,120 pounds of trash, 1,500 feet of plastic irrigation piping, 24 ounces of pesticides as well as other forms of garbage that can be detrimental to the environment.

Police Files black market Marijuana

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Courtesy of CDFW website

CA Department of Fish and Wildlife and OC Parks worked together to clean up Laguna Coast Wilderness Park after an illegal marijuana grow was discovered

For the cleanup, OC Parks worked with a specialized hazmat contractor, Clean Harbors, to ensure the pesticide was removed and disposed of correctly. Through testing, the pesticide was confirmed to be carbofuran, a highly toxic and banned substance. To understand the toxicity, just a teaspoon can kill a 300-pound black bear.

“Protecting California’s natural resources takes commitment from federal, state, county and city entities. I commend all those that were involved in this effort to identify the black market grow, eradicate it and clean it up,” said David Bess, Deputy Director and Chief of the CDFW Law Enforcement Division. “Working together, we can protect the environment and help the permitted cannabis market thrive.”

Between 2013 and 2018, CDFW has removed more than 2.4 million feet of irrigation pipe, 50 tons of fertilizer and 65 gallons of chemicals, many illegal in the U.S., on black market grows. CDFW has also removed 709 dams and water diversions resulting in restoration of 800 million gallons of water back into local watersheds.

CDFW would like to remind the public to report environmental crimes such as water pollution, water diversions and poaching to the CalTIP hotline by calling (888) 334-2258 or by texting “CALTIP” followed by a space and whatever the desired message, to 847411 (tip411).

Read more Police Files on our Front Page II – click here

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