October 31, 2014

Van Hollen cracks down on pot farms

Officers seized $13 million worth of marijuana from a remote growing operation in Marinette County — one of the largest marijuana-growing operations on record in the Badger State.

Criminals believe they can grow pot in northern Wisconsin without being detected, but State Attorney General JB Van Hollen says law enforcement is working to stop that from happening. The state’s top cop warns the public that stumbling upon marijuana grows can be very dangerous — and deadly. “So it’s very important for people to know A) that we are out there focused on these things, B) that if you learn about anything that might help give us a lead — if you find a tip — please let us know because this case was made based on a multitude of tips, and lastly, beware.”

Last week, federal search warrants were served at two locations in Marinette County related to a large-scale marijuana growing operation. Van Hollen says while authorities are seeing remote drug operations, it doesn’t necessarily mean the pot farms are on the rise; he says law enforcement is getting better at finding them.

Van Hollen warns outdoor enthusiasts about potentially heavily-armed, hardened criminals who will do anything to protect their multi-million dollar cash crop and avoid going to prison. “Most of these cases, the people who are participating in the marijuana grows are from Mexico; they are not lawfully in this country and so they have a save haven to flee to … they can just as easily grow marijuana and shoot somebody — if they think they’re gonna to get caught — and flee.”

Van Hollen says there’s a multi-state effort working to make Wisconsin very inhospitable for illegal marijuana growers. He says law enforcement gets a lot of tips from hunters, anglers, and loggers. He says both public and private properties are vulnerable to such criminals. The benefit of finding the cannabis site on private land is that money from fines and the sale of confiscated real estate help to pay for future investigative and eradication efforts.

Agencies participating in this ongoing investigation in northeaster Wisconsin include: the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Wisconsin Department of Justice – Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), the Marinette County Sheriff’s Office, the Brown County Drug Task Force and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:52