Drug Cartels Using Indian Reservation Land for Marijuana Farms

WARM SPRINGS, Ore., Nov. 6 (UPI) — Drug cartels are increasingly using Indian lands across the United States to cultivate marijuana, authorities say.

Illegal marijuana farms, mostly operated by gangs with ties to Mexico, are spreading quickly, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The U.S. Forest Service found farms in 61 national forests across 16 states this year — up from 49 farms in 10 states last year, the newspaper said.

Pot farms have sprung up on public land in Alabama, Virginia, Michigan and Colorado, officials said.

In Washington state, tribal police confiscated more than 233,000 pot plants on Indian land last year, almost 10 times as much as in 2006. Police are discovering marijuana farms on reservations from California to South Dakota.

“These criminal organizations are growing in Indian country at an alarming rate. The growers on our reservation were sent directly from Mexico,” Warm Springs, Ore., Police Chief Carmen Smith said.

Police are looking for Artemio Corona, said to be the mastermind behind several big Oregon marijuana plantations. He is suspected of growing marijuana on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in central Oregon, and is allegedly the boss of five suspects who have pleaded guilty to federal drug-trafficking charges, the Journal said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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