Tribal reservations, some with hundreds of square miles of rugged backcountry, have become the front line for law-enforcement eradication of marijuana grow operations in Washington state, Rich Wiley of the State Patrol’s Narcotics Division tells the Seattle Times. Growers are targeting the outskirts of Indian country for their marijuana farms, knowing tribal lands are sparsely populated and less policed.
The number of pot plants seized in Washington state has skyrocketed in the past decade, but the proliferation of marijuana grows on tribal lands has outpaced the statewide increase over the past five years. In 2010, almost 82,000 marijuana plants were seized on Washington’s tribal lands — nearly one-quarter of the 322,320 plants hauled in by law enforcement throughout the entire state. The number of marijuana plants found on tribal lands last year was more than nine times the number seized six years ago, according to the State Patrol. While some of that total could be attributed to stepped-up enforcement, Wiley said, the numbers don’t paint the full picture because not all tribes report pot seizures to the State Patrol.