Florida’s war on marijuana cultivation was an unqualified success last year, according to the annual report from the Domestic Marijuana Eradication (DME) Program.
In 2014, sheriff’s deputies and police officers statewide busted a combined 582 marijuana grow houses and outdoor operations, says Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who announced the findings on Tuesday.
“Our partnership with local law enforcement helps keep marijuana out of our communities, making them safer for the 20 million residents who call Florida home,” Putnam adds.
As part of the DME Program, which officials call a “cost effective and measurable” effort to prevent marijuana from reaching the street, 38 sheriff and 36 police departments eradicated 31,517 plants, resulting in 519 arrests and $245,998 in assets seized.
DME is a joint operation of federal, state and local authorities active in 49 Florida counties. The program is in coordination with Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and managed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement (OALE).
In 2014, DME received more than $380,000 to support investigations by 60 law enforcement agencies. Another $127,000 went to training officers at two specialty schools: Indoor Cannabis Investigation and Outdoor Cannabis Investigations/Aerial Detection.
Taking the biggest DME grant last year was Miami-Dade County; $133,000 to fight marijuana grow operations. As a result, Miami-Dade Police had the highest confiscation rate for the second year in a row: 5,631 indoor marijuana plants were taken and 124 indoor grow facilities closed.
As for preventing outdoor cultivation, Holmes County Sheriff’s Office proved the most effective, leading the state with 59 outdoor sites shut down and 7,704 plants confiscated. Holmes was also second in DME grants, getting $35,000.
Officials estimate law enforcement destroyed 31,517 pot plants statewide in 2014, valued at $95.5 million.
“An evaluation of the training programs offered by the DME Program continues to indicate that training in aerial detection methods and indoor grow investigations must continue in order to keep pace with illicit marijuana cultivation activity in the state,” says Agricultural Law Enforcement Director Jerry Bryan.
The report, now available online, declared the 2014 effort to suppress marijuana cultivation in Florida a success.
Launched in 1982, the DME peaked in 1993 after eradicating 243,452 plants valued at $243 million. Since the program’s inception, law enforcement stamped out more than 2.7 million plants valued at $3.2 billion.
“Florida DME Program has set national standards and served as a role model for other states,” the report says. “In addition to being known for its progressive program, Florida’s DME Program is also noted for its specialized law enforcement training in the areas of aerial detection and indoor grow investigations.”