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Sat Jul 25 2009 $1.6 Billion of Marijuana Seized by Local, State and Federal Police
Fresno County was the focus of the War on Drugs, as Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (also known as the Drug Czar), came to town. Kerlikowske and Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims held a press conference to announce operation Save our Sierra (SOS), which has now resulted in 90 arrests and approximately $1.4 billion worth of marijuana plants seized.

Mims said Mexican drug cartels are behind most of the marijuana being grown in the Sierra mountains, east of Fresno. At the time of last Wednesday's press conference, 81 of the 82 people arrested in the raids were Latinos. Speakers emphasized the damage done to the environment by marijuana growers, displaying fertilizers, pesticides, and trash left behind at the camps.

But Nancy Botwin (not her real name), a marijuana grower at the 3,000 foot elevation in eastern Fresno County with over 10 years of experience in the business, said she has never seen any sign of the Mexican Mafia in the Sierra. Botwin says she has, however, seen plenty of evidence of the SOS campaign. "They have been flying back and forth in their military helicopters for a couple of weeks now," Botwin said. "A couple of days ago they hovered over a garden a few hundred yards from here. What that did was tell the locals where the pot is at. Sure enough, a local teenager went down and harvested the pot and he was busted later in the day."

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