ST. GEORGE, Utah – The war against marijuana farming in southern Utah being waged by multiple agencies is working, U.S. Attorney for Utah David Barlow said.
Barlow, at a news conference Thursday, said a string of raids has resulted in a sharp reduction in the amount of the drug being farmed in the region.
He cited statistics showing about 13,000 plants were recovered from three farming sites in Washington, Iron and Juab counties this year, down from some 106,000 plants recovered from 17 sites in 2010, The Spectrum of St. George reported.
In 2008, more than 90,000 plants were recovered from 11 areas.
“Utah is now setting the standard, we believe, nationally in handling these large-scale marijuana investigations and prosecutions,” Barlow said, adding no one agency can handle the cases alone because they’re “resource intensive.”
Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent in Charge Frank Smith said teamwork between local, state and federal agencies is discouraging Mexican drug cartels that control the cultivation of marijuana plants on public lands in the West.
“We can’t make any money in Utah because law enforcement’s too tough.’ (Those are) not my words, that’s a trafficker’s words, and that’s why you’ve seen a reduction,” Smith said. “We have had such a forward-leaning effort and have turned this into a science, they’re no longer able to make the kind of profits they once did.”
Smith said marijuana growing is the single-largest drug-revenue source for transcontinental cartels responsible for much of the violence in Mexico, producing an estimated $30 billion in business.
He said none of the marijuana grown in Utah stays here. Instead, it’s driven to California, where it’s repackaged for distribution.
“It’s legal in California, but we still have the problem ... It’s still affecting us here in Utah,” he said. “They’re coming here and they’re decimating our public lands. And they have armed gunmen.”