MOUNT HAMILTON, Calif. -- Drug enforcement agents on Monday raided an illegal marijuana farm on the east side of Mount Hamilton in Santa Clara County.
Agents said the raid kept millions of dollars' worth of marijuana from reaching Bay Area streets, NBC11's Damian Trujillo reported.Agents had to be airlifted to the farm, believed to be ran by a drug cartel out of Fresno.
Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies said they seized about 20,000 plants, with a street value of $4,000 a plant, totaling $80 million.
Marijuana Seized On Mount Hamilton
Agents said growers hastily escaped the morning raid.
Off camera, the land owner said this is the fifth year the growers targeted his property. He said he hopes the raid encourages growers to stay away next year.
Those hired to operate the gardens are usually armed, making the busts increasingly dangerous, Trujillo reported.
Two years ago during a similar bust, growers shot and wounded an agent.
"We've had encounters where we've had gunfights. So, it takes a while to get up there because this terrain is steep and rugged," said Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Ed Wise.
Agents usually make raids in June, but Brent Wood of the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement said they try to mix it up.
"The crooks, they figure out a pattern," Wood said. "They grow their marijuana earlier, so we have to change with them."
Followup...Marijuana garden gives up 18,000 plants
Bay City News Service
Article Last Updated: 07/10/2007 01:18:30 PM PDT
After clearing more than 18,000 pot plants near Mt. Hamilton Monday, the Santa Clara County sheriff's marijuana eradication team is at it again today, tackling another garden.
Deputies, with the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, used a helicopter to lower about 20 personnel into a private hillside garden near the Lick Observatory Monday. Deputies found numerous bags full of harvested marijuana buds, 18,000 plants and chemicals and hoses used to irrigate and nourish the plants.
Santa Clara County sheriff's Sgt. Ed Wise valued the plants at $4,000 each and said the bagged plants were signs of very recent activity. The bags were valued between $3,500 and $6,000 each.
Wise described the area as "very rugged and mountainous terrain.'' The owner of the 12,000-acre property was aware of the garden and activity but was not involved with the operation, Wise said.
Today sheriff's deputies are on Mt. Umunhum in the Santa Cruz Mountains where they expect to seize about 5,000 plants. Once pulled, the plants are incinerated, Wise said.