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Despite Legalization, Illegal Marijuana Grows Continue On Public Lands

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Voters have legalized recreational marijuana in Washington and Oregon, but police continue to find illegal marijuana grows on public lands.

In fact, Washington authorities report an uptick in plant seizures and arrests this year.

The hot summer months when marijuana eradication teams do much of their work seems a long time ago. But for Lt. Chris Sweet of the Washington State Patrol, one raid is still vivid in his mind. It happened on the Yakama Reservation in late July.

“There were actually several individuals inside the grow that were tending to the grow at the time,” Sweet recalled. “So we set up a takedown, we went in there, we arrested four suspects and two of the suspects were armed.”

In 2014, police in Washington seized nearly 50,000 outdoor marijuana plants. That’s up from last year, but nothing like 2009 when nearly 600,000 plants were seized.

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.