Drug agents can't keep up with pot growers

Mexican criminals using sophisticated methods have spread the marijuana industry across California, traditionally the nation's main domestic source because of a mild climate and vast stretches of isolated landscape ideal for clandestine growing, say the authorities.

As recently as 10 years ago, the Emerald Triangle counties of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity grew virtually all of the state's pot. Now every California county that's not desert has a problem. Because of tighter security on the southern U.S. border, Mexicans simply made a business decision to move north.

"In the last two or three years almost 100% of the gardens we've eradicated are Mexican drug cartel gardens," says James Parker, the senior narcotics agent who oversees CAMP. "It's alarming if you think about it."

Today's high potency weed is so valuable - $5,000 or more for a pound of buds on the East Coast - that big operators employ armed guards who camp in pot gardens for months, nurturing plants that grow to 15 feet and taller. A state Fish and Game officer was wounded and a suspect shot and killed in a Santa Clara County bust in June, the fourth incident in two years.