The Santa Barbara Sheriff confirmed this week what many have long suspected: that marijuana cultivation is Santa Barbara County’s number one cash crop. Last Friday, Sheriff’s deputies seized 61,000 pot plants growing just east of Twitchell Reservoir, which supplies water to North County residents, valued at approximately $195 million. The value of that one bust nearly equaled the value of the county’s entire strawberry crop in 2006 – $200 million. Strawberries are technically ranked the county’s top cash crop.
A Sheriff’s department spokesperson estimated the other pot plants seized last year were collectively worth less than half last Friday’s seizure. Deputies arrested three men they suspect were involved in marijuana cultivation though for other charges. Those charges include lying to law enforcement officers, driving without a valid license and entering the country illegally. They have been placed on immigration holds pending further investigation. The marijuana was reportedly planted in nine separate areas covering a three-mile span and were irrigated with an elaborate and ingenious gravity- fed system.
A department spokesperson said the plants were discovered when deputies flew overhead in a helicopter.