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101 arrested in Calif. pot raids

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101 arrested in Calif. pot raids

56 sites in forests targeted in 'Operation Full Court Press'

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In one of the largest operations of its kind, state and federal officials destroyed more than 460,000 pot plants and arrested 101 people in a massive raid on marijuana farms in Northern California’s forests.

The raids, dubbed Operation Full Court Press, targeted 56 growing sites across six Northern California counties – a 900,000-acre region known as the Emerald Triangle for its high concentration of pot farms.

California officials claim the proliferation of marijuana farms and the rogue, armed gardeners who protect them have been turning Mendocino National Forest into a dangerous place for the public to hike, fish and hunt. During the operation, authorities seized 32 guns and 11 vehicles.

“The Mendocino National Forest is under attack by drug trackers,” Melinda Haag, U.S. attorney for Northern California, said at a news conference Friday in Ukiah. “Visitors to the forest are increasingly intimidated by the prospect of armed drug traffickers and illegal cultivation sites.”

The marijuana farmers have also littered public lands with toxic chemicals and trash, the L.A. Times reports. During the raid, authorities confiscated 2,171 pounds of fertilizer and 57 pounds of pesticides. With the help of the U.S. Forest Service, they also removed 23 tons of trash and 22 miles of irrigation pipe that have damaged forestland and rivers. They also dismantled 13 man-made dams.

“There are those who believe that growing marijuana is a harmless, peaceful activity in harmony with nature,” Haag said. “This notion is, in a word, wrong.”

The raid involved more than 300 officials from 25 local and federal agencies. It grew out of a Mendocino County Board of Supervisors’ meeting in Covelo where several residents complained that they had been fired upon in the forest in the past year, the AP reports.

For decades, illegal drug organizations have grown pot in California, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1996. But local, state and federal authorities have only begun stepping up efforts to crack down on illegal growers in recent years.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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