County’s pot production dropping

Police are finding less homegrown marijuana in Snohomish County, dispelling its dubious distinction as one of the state’s top pot producers.

A three-year decline in the illegal industry here dropped Snohomish County from fourth in Washington state in 2001 to 11th for overall production last year, according to a state report released this month.

The drop comes as police put major marijuana growers in Snohomish County out of business and imports of high-potency cannabis from Canada increase.

The top 11 counties for growing marijuana in 2004, according to the State Patrol and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration:

1. Klickitat

2. Chelan

3. Yakima

4. Douglas

5. Benton

6. Mason

7. Kitsap

8. Skamania

9. Pierce

10. Stevens

11. Snohomish

“We’re dealing with much more imported marijuana now than domestic dope,” Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force Sgt. John Flood said. “Like any consumer out there, marijuana users want the most bang for their buck and they prefer the stuff coming from Canada.”

Production shifted

In Washington state, marijuana production has shifted from Snohomish County and other western counties to Eastern Washington, where growers can more easily conceal the crops.

Statewide, police found a record amount of marijuana in 2004, seizing 131,646 plants, according to the State Patrol.

In 2004, Klickitat County in south-central Washington led the state for marijuana growth, with more than 61,000 plants found outdoors, according to the State Patrol and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Chelan, Yakima, Douglas and Benton counties rounded out the top five. In previous years, Snohomish County was near the top of the list.

Most of the marijuana police found statewide was from large operations cultivating cannabis with high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical that produces marijuana’s high. THC levels ranged from 10 percent to 25 percent, compared with marijuana from the 1960s which averaged between 1 percent and 3 percent THC content.

Last year in Snohomish County, the drug task force found 1,578 mature plants and 666 starter plants valued at nearly $1.6 million, Flood said. That’s down from 2,419 mature plants and 503 starter plants found in 2003.

Flood said he hopes the effort to stem the supply of the drug is reducing its use here.

Drug of choice

Marijuana addiction still topped the list in 2004 for youth seeking publicly funded drug treatment in Snohomish County, said Cammy Hart-Anderson, a county drug and alcohol counselor.

For kids 18 and younger who asked for help, 59 percent said they were addicted to marijuana, she said. In contrast, about 27 percent reported alcohol addiction.

“We’ve seen a slight decrease in the number of kids coming into treatment indicating marijuana is their primary drug of choice,” she said. “But during that same period of time, we’ve seen more kids who say they’re using methamphetamine.”

She didn’t know whether the teenagers treated were using meth instead of marijuana. Adults who received treatment reported a similar rise in the use of heroin and meth last year as marijuana addiction dropped.

For adults, 20 percent of those treated in 2003 said marijuana was their drug of choice. Last year, marijuana addiction dipped to 10 percent. It was below the number of adults asking for treatment for alcohol, heroin and methamphetamine addiction.

Even so, police say there’s plenty of evidence marijuana use remains a problem.

A study of 512 men booked into the Snohomish County Jail between November 2002 and February 2003 found about 40 percent tested positive for marijuana.

Indoor operations

In Snohomish County, most of the marijuana raised here is grown indoors because it allows growers to more easily hide their crops and boost THC levels with powerful lights, Flood said.

Outdoor plants are usually lower quality because of fluctuations in temperatures and light, Flood said. The bright green plants are also easy to spot from the air when the drug task force searches by helicopter every summer.

“The big drop in 2004 for outdoor grows is in part because we had a long summer and we think we missed part of the crop,” Flood said, adding that warmer weather likely resulted in an earlier harvest.

Task force detectives have shut down several major indoor marijuana operations in the past few years, including a 2003 bust that uncovered nearly 1,000 plants growing at homes in Arlington, Monroe and Duvall. The crop had an estimated value of $1.75 million. Three men were convicted in December in connection with the operation.

“Cases such as those send shockwaves into the community of growers,” Flood said. “They know they’re more likely to get caught here.”

Reporter Katherine Schiffner: 425-339-3436 or

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