Machete-wielding police officers have hacked their way through billions of dollars worth of marijuana in top pot-growing states to stave off a bumper crop sprouting in the tough economy, the Associated Press reports. The number of plants seized has jumped in California, the top marijuana-growing state, while seizures continue to rise in Washington after nearly doubling last year. Growers in a three-state region of central Appalachia appear to have reversed a decline in pot cultivation over the last two years.
Officers in those areas, the biggest hotbeds for marijuana production, have chopped down plants with a street value of around $12 billion in the first eight months of this year. Officers around the U.S. increased their haul from 7 million plants in 2007 to 8 million in 2008. “A lot of that, we theorize, is the economy,” said Ed Shemelya of the Office of Drug Control Policy’s Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.