Marijuana growth is rampant throughout Florida, but according to this year’s domestic marijuana eradication report, the Drug Enforcement Administration is cracking down on local cannabis.
Last year, according to the report, the DEA allocated $500,000 to the state’s Domestic Marijuana Eradication Program, an increase of $50,000 from 2011.
Judith Ivester, program coordinator for domestic marijuana eradication, said those resources funded marijuana-growth detection training for law enforcement agencies throughout the state.
Ivester said 87 percent of the funding was used to reimburse investigative costs for local agencies, providing an incentive to identify, investigate and eradicate the growth of the plant.
In Florida, 772 growth sites were recorded according to the report, which equated to 723 growth-related arrests and the eradication of 37,388 plants.
Ivester said North Central Florida is a hotbed for marijuana growth.
She said in southern Florida, indoor growth is more prevalent because the area is more urban. Growers in counties like Dade and Broward try to move their product inside to avoid detection.
“The north region of Florida is more rural,” Ivester said. “There’s more opportunity and more area to grow outside than there are indoor growths.”
Ivester said Florida leads the nation with the number of indoor growths reported to the DEA. Last year, 32,306 plants were eradicated from indoor growths alone. The remaining 5,802 plants were found on outside sites.
“We do know that that’s a trend with growers,” Ivester said. “They are moving their operations indoor. It’s harder to detect indoor growth than outdoor.”
Ivester said the domestic marijuana eradication program is working to improve its efforts in the years to come.
“We do think with all of the other drug problems in Florida – the pill mills, the meth problems – marijuana sometimes may not be as a high priority in some areas as they are in others,” Ivester said. “But with the funding that’s available to them (local law enforcement agencies), it’s still an incentive for them to keep on top of that and to get that information reported to us.”
Rachel Crosby wrote this story online.