Crackdown on marijuana crops

Marijuana fields managed by Mexican drug gangs have been cropping up throughout Oregon, which kept police busy all summer.

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Police drug teams have doubled the amount of Mexican marijuana plant seizures this year, at one point busting a crop with a wholesale value worth an estimated $64.7 million. Yet despite catching lower-level workers, police haven’t been as lucky trying to track down the kingpins.

Police interrogate gardeners, pore through their suspects’ cell phones and sometimes track the movements of those who supply the growers — all in hopes of picking up the trail to Mr. Big. But they acknowledge that getting useful information out of low-level grunts is a little like asking Nike’s factory workers in China what they know about Phil Knight’s finances.

“It’s horribly frustrating,” says Chris P. Brown, deputy superintendent of the Oregon State Police. Brown formerly was the sheriff of Douglas County, where Mexican drug gangs set up growers with guns and garden hoses in the mountainous 5,134-square-mile county he was sworn to protect. “Some of these guys you catch in the gardens, they don’t even know what state they’re in.”

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