Hawaii's billion-dollar marijuana industry has been dealt a potentially fatal blow by a federal, state and county crackdown that used space-age surveillance to pinpoint aerial spraying of herbicide, authorities say.
About 90 percent of Hawaii's summer marijuana crop has been destroyed in Operation Wipeout, the biggest joint agency crackdown in Hawaii history and one of the largest in the nation, state Attorney General Warren Price said Monday."Law enforcement intelligence sources report that the industry is now in shambles, with growers leaving the state or turning to legitimate businesses," Price said.
In three months, the statewide operation that had the blessing of just-resigned drug policy chief William Bennett destroyed 785,000 plants worth $1.1 billion on the street, officials said.
Price said the sweep was made possible by "space-age intelligence gathering and photo identification methods."
He declined to say whether that meant military satellites were used to pinpoint the marijuana crops, saying only that information on the Pentagon's involvement was classified.
Marijuana, or "pakalolo," is the state's No. 1 cash crop and is grown year-round, mostly on the island of Hawaii. The state is among the biggest pot producers in the nation.