Amid desert mayhem, LA cracks down on illegal weed

The explosion of illegal cannabis operations in around the Antelope Valley has roused LA County to action. Following weeks of pleas from Supervisor Kathryn Barger, the Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to partner with federal, state, and local officials to shut down illegal cannabis grows in the region. The Board is also reconsidering the current ban on commercial marijuana in unincorporated areas. Supervisor Janice Hahn said she hopes a “legal pathway" would help the county "tackle the illegal market, by giving them a legal option.”

The Board has approved $250,000 to beef up sheriff’s patrols in the desert areas affected by recent large-scale marijuana crimes. It has requested a report on the potential for more funding through this year’s supplemental budget. The county will also appeal to the state for more aid.

Barger has warned that the illegal operations could soon spread to other areas of the county. In addition to violent crime, she has stressed the resulting environmental degradation. Two bears were recently found dead from pesticide poisoning, she claimed. Growers have been siphoning off massive amounts of water from the public — in a drought, no less.

Last month, authorities seized 16 tons of illegal marijuana during an operation in Lancaster. The street value was a record $1.19 billion, eclipsing an earlier $50-million raid. It was the largest marijuana bust in the history of the LA Sheriff's Department. Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the operation was linked to international drug cartels.