In a joint effort with C.A.M.P., the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, agents with the Trinity County Sheriff’s Department are dedicated to removing marijuana gardens on private and public land.
So far this year, the Trinity County Narcotics Task Force has eradicated more than 15 grows. It is estimated that Trinity County produces about one billion dollars worth of marijuana a year.
Trinity County is known to be in the Emerald Triangle, along with Humboldt and Mendocino Counties, given the nickname because it's the largest cannabis growing region in the country.
“Individuals in the marijuana trade choose counties like Trinity because of the limited law enforcement resources,” said Trinity County Sheriff Bruce Haney.
Sheriff Bruce Haney said the area also offers an ideal climate and space for growers to tuck their gardens deep into the wilderness. The marijuana grows in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest are in such remote areas, a helicopter is sometimes needed to access the site. After landing in the forest, it still takes a good hike up steep terrain to find it.
“They'll move their camps a mile from their grow, a mile hike through this stuff is nothing they do it every day,” said Trinity County Corporal Omar Brown.
Agents raided a garden last month in the forest, pulling more than 40,000 marijuana plants. It had a street value of close to 50 million dollars.
“The size of this garden is our fault everything they do is a response to law enforcement tactics,” said Corporal Brown, “if we had left them alone at 1,000 grows that's all they would be doing but we didn't we took them down and then they found out when they got away with one or two gardens it just wasn't enough, so they had to grow bigger ones.”
Corporal Brown is part of the Trinity Narcotics Task Force, he says the growers try to stay ahead of the curve, adapting to the agents strategies.
“We go to court and we tell them exactly how we caught them so the rest say hmm, that's what they do and they got caught and so now they are trained not to do that,” said Corporal Brown.
Even though law enforcement went in and cleared the grows, weed is a hardy plant so it continues to grow after it cut down. This means it’s still very dangerous for the public to come into the land.
“They could have come back and got maybe ten pounds worth and that's enough to salvage their jobs, the workers that were here,” said Corporal Brown.
The growers responsible for the garden were never caught; Corporal Brown said they were Mexican Nationals and managed to escape during the raid, leaving behind their campsite and crops. A five month long operation infiltrated by law enforcement.
“They will run and still protect their gardens before we catch them a lot of them are armed and they will shoot not knowing we are law enforcement shoot to protect their gardens, so they are dangerous,” said Corporal Brown.
Even though the growers got away, many others have been caught. They are typically cooperative once they're in custody.
“Very respectful because they are just workers they are the gardeners hard-working people with a strong work ethic,” said Corporal Brown.
But that's where it stops, these marijuana operations are controlled by drug cartels and Corporal Brown said they are the ones who never get taken down.
“Pretty impossible they put enough screens below them they hire a crew that hires a crew below them, to get the bosses it would have to be a consorted effort from our countries and that's never going to happen,” said Corporal Brown.