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California Budget Cuts Threaten Marijuana Eradication Efforts

SACRAMENTO (KCBS) - The summertime hunt for covert marijuana growing operations in California could be seriously scaled back next year unless state officials find a way to restore $1 million of lost funding.

Fewer resources for the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, known as CAMP, could spell trouble for California state parks, which is where authorities found most of the 4 million pot plants cut down last year.

"We have fewer rangers, peace officers to be in these parks. They're proposing to close 70, so it only stands to reason that we're worried about marijuana gardens because we've had quite a number in recent years," said Roy Stearns, spokesman for the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

KCBS' Holly Quan Reports:

Federal funding for CAMP hasn't gone anywhere, but the budget signed recently by Gov. Jerry Brown cut $71 million from various law enforcement programs, including California's share of the program run jointly with the state Attorney General's Office.

Stearns said other agencies could not be counted on to make up the difference, since they too have seen their budgets shrink.

Police at the East Bay Regional Parks District spotted a marijuana grove outside Moraga only after one of their officers came under fire in the area.

Captain Mark Ruppenthal said his Police Division has just 62 officers to patrol the district's 110,000 acres of open space in 65 parks spread over Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

"We have, due to budget cuts, lost officer positions. But we still are patrolling the lands to the best of our ability," he said.

Stearns said several recent busts in different areas showed clear signs that the pot farms had existed in those locations for several years without being detected.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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