Cops bust marijuana plantation in San Bernardino National Forest
Local and federal narcotics investigators have arrested one man and destroyed 1,100 marijuana plants in the San Bernardino National Forest.
Jose Mendez, 29, of Mexico, was arrested during the raid Thursday at an illegal pot plantation in a canyon below Smiley Park, officials said. He was charged with marijuana cultivation and possession of a firearm, according to a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department report.
A second suspect was spotted running from the site but was not located, officials said.
Agents from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Forest Service, along with San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies, had received reports of the marijuana plantation several weeks ago, authorities said. The officers hiked into the canyon and found the site, as well as a 9-millimeter pistol, camping supplies and food, they said.
The marijuana plants were nearly full grown, measuring between 6 and 7 feet, and the plantation had probably been operating since April, according to the Sheriff's Department report.
Workers had cleared natural vegetation to make room for the plants and had diverted water from a nearby stream to irrigate them, deputies said.
Clandestine marijuana cultivation on public forest lands by Mexicans, many of whom are from the state of Michoacan, has become an enormous business throughout California in the last decade, say narcotics officers.
In the San Bernardino National Forest alone, deputies report eradicating plants from three clandestine plantations so far this summer.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call narcotics investigators at 909-890-4840.
-- Sam Quinones