OLYMPIA-- Nine years after it began, the Washington Marijuana Eradication Taskforce is finding fewer large-scale, illegal pot farms on public lands.
In 2013, Washington State Patrol, which coordinates the federally-funded program, reported just over 41,000 plants were confiscated, down from 216,000 in 2012 and well below the peak in 2009 of more than 600,000 plants.
This despite the fact the same money, and even more manpower was expended to find illegal pot farms last year, according to law enforcement.
The statistics provide an important benchmark for law enforcement, as Washington prepares to release its first list of legal marijuana growing licenses this week.
We're definitely going to know if it's a plus or a negative, explained Lt. Chris Sweet from Washington State Patrol, We've been able to suppress and eradicate a lot of the drug trafficking activity that's been going on on public lands.
One reason the 2013 number is so low is there was very little enforcement action on small, indoor marijuana growing. This, according to Lt.Sweet, is because of the looming I-502 implementation and medical marijuana laws.
However, Sweet believes the main reason fewer large pot farms were uncovered was because the taskforce has made Washington too hot for illegal trafficking.
Nonetheless, another proposal for a federal grant was filed by Lt.Sweet just last month. Itwould cost roughly $1 million to keep the taskforce going.
We still need to monitor to see if these illegal organizations are going to come back to our state, just because we legalized marijuana, he said.