Marijuana Plantation Discovered : Drugs: Ventura County deputies clear 6,000 plants from a canyon near Lake Casitas. The high-grade crop, valued at $24 million, is the biggest haul county authorities can recall.


Using machetes, chain saws and brush strippers, Ventura County sheriff’s deputies Monday finished clearing 6,000 marijuana plants from a canyon near Lake Casitas, the biggest haul of illegal vegetation county authorities could recall.

“This operation has exceeded my wildest expectation in the amount of marijuana that can be grown in one place in the county,” said Lt. Craig Husband. “People cultivating them knew exactly what they were doing.”

So far, deputies have no leads on who planted and tended the crop.

Husband said the plants were a high grade of marijuana with a street value of $4,000 a pound, totaling an estimated $24 million.


Deputies trucked the plants to an undisclosed location to burn them.

The illicit farm was less than two miles from Highway 150 and only a mile south of the U.S. Forest Ranger station in Los Padres National Forest.

The growers had made four ad-hoc encampments within the plantation, spread throughout a mile-long area along Willow Creek, which runs into Lake Casitas.

Husband estimated that a half-dozen or more people had used buckets and plastic irrigation hoses that ran from the stream to water the plants at least every other day.

“Those are the largest plants I have ever seen,” he said, adding that some of the shrubs were 15 feet tall with trunks measuring up to 6 inches in diameter. “They picked a perfect location. It provided them with an abundance of water, which assured growth.”

Thirty law enforcement officers from the Sheriff’s Department, the county Fire Department and the Forest Service spent 20 hours hacking down the plants in an operation that began Sunday and ended Monday afternoon.

Deputies discovered the plantation about 6 p.m. on Saturday while conducting a routine helicopter patrol, Husband said.


Using binoculars and flying as low as 750 feet, a trained narcotics detective spotted the plants, said Senior Deputy Chuck Buttell.

“We were lucky that we chanced upon this one,” Buttell said. “The plants blended in with the natural vegetation, and if it hadn’t been for the right sunlight, I don’t know if we would have noticed them.”

The plantation was scattered along both sides of the creek, which enjoys partial shade from sycamore and oak trees and birch shrubs, Husband said.

The growers had backpacked tools, camping gear and cultivation paraphernalia across rough terrain to the farm, investigators said.

Husband estimated that the marijuana was planted in early spring and that the crop would have been ready for harvest in another four to six weeks. He said the operation was labor-intensive and that the heavy winter rains contributed to its success.

“Dry weather and fires reduce the growth of marijuana in this area drastically,” Husband said.


Sheriff’s deputies began conducting daily backcountry flights in search of illegal vegetation about a month ago, Husband said.

“The rains have created prime land for this type of operation,” Husband said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if we found other farms like Willow Creek.”