Rappelling from helicopters into rugged and remote terrain may sound like the setting for an action scene from Hollywood Blockbusters, but it is how the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office dismantled and removed illegal marijuana growing equipment from regions of the County.
The Marijauna Eradication Team, a special operations section of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, spent the weekend moving from illegal site to illegal site, removing the infrastructure that marijuana growers use to cultivate their illegal crop. Ranging from irrigation piping to gardening tools, the operation was designed to protect the environment from further damage, disable the sites production capacity, and perhaps deter others from restarting the grows.
The illegal grows are often planted in remote areas of unincorporated counties. There, growers hope to operate with relative impunity. But a technique known as Short Hauling, where officers are carried at the end of 100-foot long ropes suspended under helicopters, can turn long hikes into short flights. It is estimated that hiking to each location could have taken as long as five hours.
Since 2002, the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Department’s MET teams have been working to undermine their efforts. In 2012, the MET team destroyed more than 91,000 marijuana plants. Their efforts are funded by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.