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Amid Legal Pot, Search Continues For Illegal Grows

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
This July 1, 2014, photo shows marijuana plants in containers at Sea of Green Farms, a recreational pot grower in Seattle.

Legal marijuana grows are just getting started in Washington. But it’s the illegal ones that local, state and federal agents are searching out this month. It’s the annual summer marijuana eradication program.

Plant seizures have declined significantly in recent years. The banner year was 2009 when more than 600,000 illegally-grown marijuana plants were seized on public and private lands in Washington. By last year, that number had plummeted to about 40,000 plants seized. Oregon and Idaho have also seen a decline.

Washington State Patrol Lt. Chris Sweet says illegal pot growers have changed their tactics over the years.

“The grows are now less plant count, they’re planted more sporadically and they’re harder to find,” Sweet said.

Sweet says the 5,000 plants seized so far this year were growing among corn stalks on farmland. As tips come in about marijuana growing on private property, Sweet says, troopers now work with the Liquor Control Board to first determine if it’s licensed and legal.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.