OKANOGAN – The Drug Task Force harvested approximately 20,000 marijuana plants in Okanogan County during the month of August.
The drug eradication efforts took place the weeks of Aug. 16 and Aug. 27, according to Brad Wilson, Commander of the North Central Washington Narcotics Task Force.
“In the Okanogan Valley approximately 10,000 marijuana plants were harvested off the National Forest, State Land and private property. Ownership of the marijuana gardens is still being investigated with four currently under arrest and more arrests pending,” said Wilson.
The plants were found in the Sinlahekin and Lost Lake areas
In the Methow Valley another 10,000 plants were harvested from two gardens on the National Forest in the Black Creek area. Again the cases are still being investigated with two arrested and more pending.
“This is approximately the same number of plants that were harvested last year in the Okanogan, but from fewer gardens,” he said. “Most marijuana gardens of larger plant counts become an ongoing investigation, in an effort to arrest those responsible and to dismantle that organization which is usually a multi-faceted drug trafficing organization.”
Wilson said these types of investigations are costly and consume a lot of resources and although they may be started and continued by the Task Force, it often is not alone. There are many other agencies that will become involved depending on which public agency controls the land where the gardens are grown. These include the Washington State Patrol, the state Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Park Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Washington National Guard and the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office.
“These investigations become partnerships in a concerted effort to disrupt, dismantle, these organizations and imprison those responsible. These organizations not only manufacture and distribute drugs, but rape the environment and pose a threat to those citizens attempting to enjoy our public lands,” he said.
The individuals arrested were turned over to the DEA for federal charging and prosecution. Five of those arrested were Mexican nationals, according to Wilson.