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Authorities have busted over 500 marijuana farms throughout San Diego County in the last five years, resulting in the eradication of 1.5 million plants worth about $3 billion, according to U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.

“Most people likely have no idea how much marijuana is grown on public lands or that these grows are being operated at the expense of our pristine forests and parks,” Duffy said. Since marijuana growers continue to face harsh federal penalties despite relaxed state laws and outright legalization of marijuana use when accompanied by a doctor’s recommendation, their operations are forced into clandestine locations, often operating on public land and frequently without concern for environmental degaradation.

Last February, the Reader featured in-depth coverage on the workings of one such large-scale pot bust.

So far this summer authorities have seized and destroyed an estimated 734,000 plants throughout California in an operation begun last month. The local five month outdoor growing season runs through October.

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