Massive pot sweep continues in Fresno forests

California law now allows marijuana with a prescription, and new legislation would make it legal for all adults, raising $1.4 billion in new taxes. But law enforcement officials say one thing hasn't changed: pot farms still illegally use — and often scar — California's forests.

As part of a massive sweep, more than 300 agents from 17 agencies have spent the past 10 days hiking through and flying over Fresno County's secluded forests to destroy tens of thousands of plants worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Authorities arrested dozens of people and seized dozens of weapons, Fresno County sheriff's deputy Chris Curtice said.

"This is about growing illegal marijuana on public lands and state and federal parks," Curtice said. "This is not about legalization of marijuana, it's about growing illegal marijuana on public lands, the damage it does to the environment and the danger it poses to the public because of the people involved."

Each year, local, state and federal agents pick a region of California to focus their efforts in fighting marijuana farms. This year's campaign, called Operation Save Our Sierra, focused on the foothill areas of Fresno County.

The growers, who often come from Mexico, are paid by cartels to cultivate the plants, authorities say. They often stay in the forests for months, some to pay for their illegal transit to America. They leave behind tons of litter, kill wildlife and cattle, and pollute waterways, officials say — marks that can harm the environment for years.

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