Drought may be upon us, but the government is tearing up green crops all the same. The DEA and forest authorities have dug up more than 578,000 cannabis plants in the western US since July 1, as part of a two-month operation that saw 14 people arrested in California. Plants were found in the forests and national parks of that state, along with those in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, reports the AFP. The plants are estimated to be worth more than $1 billion.
More than 80% of the plants were pulled from California soil—and that's not all that was uprooted. "Huge amounts of trash, miles of irrigation line, and many pounds of fertilizer and pesticides were removed from grow sites on public lands," the Justice Department said in a statement, lamenting the long-term environmental consequences of such operations. "Marijuana growers remove natural vegetation. They cut down trees to allow sunlight into the site, and they divert streams from their natural path to irrigate the land." Indiana police chopped down some plants of their own yesterday, and the Courier-Journal explains why the drought is actually making authorities' task easier. (Read more marijuana stories.)