By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Pot choppers took to the air over East Hawaii on Monday and Tuesday, a top state law enforcer said.
According to Keith Kamita, the Department of Public Safety's deputy director of law enforcement, the joint federal, state and local marijuana eradication mission netted 4,053 plants ranging from one foot to 12 feet in height.
"This is under the federal marijuana eradication program," Kamita said Tuesday afternoon. Asked if any more missions are planned for the Big Island, Kamita replied: "We're finished for right now for this operation."
Kamita said areas targeted include Hilo, Glenwood, Hawaiian Paradise Park, Hawaiian Acres, Eden Roc, Fern Acres and Kalapana.
The multi-agency task force included the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, the state's Narcotics Enforcement Division and the Honolulu and Kauai county police departments "with support from the Hawaii county police," Kamita said.
He said two private helicopters and a Coast Guard chopper were used.
The Tribune-Herald received multiple calls Monday and Tuesday from areas ranging from Hakalau to Hawaiian Beaches reporting a low-flying red helicopter over populated areas. Kamita said "no red helicopters" were involved in the operation.
Coast Guard helicopters are usually red and white.
Kamita said one arrest was made. Asked about charges, he replied that it is "under investigation" and said the feds have jurisdiction. The Honolulu DEA office did not return a phone call late Tuesday afternoon seeking additional information.
Kamita said authorities encountered a number of medical marijuana permit holders. He said of permit holders in compliance with state law, "we talked to them and walked away."
As for permit holders growing more plants than the legal limit of three mature and four immature plants, Kamita said: "We had a few."
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