A Bumper Year for Pot

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Jun 11, 2001.

  1. By Larry D. Hatfield, Chronicle Staff Writer
    Source: San Francisco Chronicle

    Increasingly controlled by a handful of Mexican drug cartels, California's billion-dollar wilderness marijuana industry has shifted from the Emerald Triangle in the north to the southern Sierra Nevada, according to federal and state law enforcement officials.
    And after a record year last year, officials are gearing up for another bumper crop both in production and seizures this year. The highly valued California-grown pot is literally as valuable as gold, selling today for about the same price as the metal, at around $4,200 a pound.

    Not only is the illicit marijuana industry a major crime problem -- authorities say the Mexican cartels are using profits from their illegal methamphetamine operations to finance expanding pot farms in California and elsewhere -- officials say it poses serious threats to the wilderness ecology and to people using California's and the nation's backcountry.

    "This is a really serious problem," said Jerry Moore, regional law enforcement director for the U.S. Forest Service. "And it's a problem that has spread all over the state."

    He said the most serious change in the shadow industry is the inroads made by Mexican drug organizations.

    "We think we have at least two organizations working here in California, maybe more," Moore said.

    Intelligence sources have information that the cartels have divided up territories, with some operating in California and on mostly federal lands elsewhere, including in the Appalachians in the East.

    "There's still a number of people growing marijuana for commercial use who have been involved for more than 20 years, mainly in the north, but these organized groups have pretty much taken over," Moore said.

    That means bigger operations and bigger problems for law enforcement.

    "The days of a hippie growing a few plants in the woods are pretty much over," said Forest Service spokesman Matt Mathes. "What's taken over are large, organized cartels, many originating in Mexico, that grow up to 10,000 or more (plants) in a plantation."

    Authorities said the center of the industry has spread from its old base in Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties -- the so-called Emerald Triangle -- into the Sierra foothills and mountains from Calaveras to Kern County.

    Indeed, more than half of the 345,207 marijuana plants seized last year by California's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) were in the Central Valley and Sierra foothills.

    Kern County, which includes remote wilderness areas in the Sequoia National Forest, has become a favorite of pot farmers -- it led CAMP seizures with 59,015 plants.

    Nearly half of California's counties had pot gardens raided by local and state authorities last year and federal authorities said there were raids in all of the state's 18 national forests. The national forests cover 20 million acres, one-fifth of California.

    Moore said there are huge problems with wilderness marijuana plantations in Tulare and Tehama counties, that the sophisticated growing operations have spread into the Angeles, Los Padres and San Bernardino national forests.

    "Those areas are not traditionally big garden areas," Moore said.

    A 60,000-plant operation was busted in Sequoia National Forest last year and Moore said several 5,000-to-7,000-plant gardens have already been found in Cleveland National Forest, primarily in San Diego and Orange counties, this year.

    The exact size of California's marijuana crop is impossible to determine, but judging from last year's record seizures, it ranks up there with tourism and agriculture as one of the state's major industries.

    Comprehensive figures are difficult to determine because of interagency overlap, but last year, the attorney general's CAMP program claimed its 345,207 marijuana plants seized were 43 percent more than the previous record set in 1999. The retail value of the plants -- 203,964 from public lands and 141,243 from private lands -- was estimated at $1.3 billion.

    The Forest Service said 440,000 plants were seized on national forest lands.

    In fact, that figure may have been 100,000 plants or so higher because of eradication efforts by sheriff's departments or the state, Moore said.

    CAMP seized 59,015 plants in Kern County but Kern and other counties seized even more in local raids. Tulare County Sheriff's Lt. Greg Wright, for instance, said his agency alone eradicated 60,000 plants with an estimated value of $180 million.

    The wilderness pot farms are labor-intensive operations, requiring growers to pack in all their equipment, to maintain caretakers and guards at the site during the growing season and to walk in bigger crews for the planting and harvesting.

    They leave more than footprints.

    "One of the worst things about the plantations is the environmental degradation the growers wreak on the national forests," the Forest Service's Mathes said.

    Moreover, authorities said, the forest pot farms pose a danger to the public using the woods.

    "It's an incredibly valuable crop," Mathes said, "and these people are generally armed. That poses some risk to forest visitors, like you and me. Fortunately, they generally plant in out-of-the-way places."

    Note: Mexican cartels shifting plantations to southern Sierra.

    Contact: Larry D. Hatfield at: lhatfield@sfchronicle.com

    Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
    Author: Larry D. Hatfield, Chronicle Staff Writer
    Published: Saturday, June 9, 2001
    Copyright: 2001 San Francisco Chronicle Page A - 3
    Contact: letters@sfchronicle.com
    Website: http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle/
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  2. "The days of a hippie growing a few plants in the woods are pretty much over,"

    Of course it is morons. And its all your damn fault. If Pot wasnt illegal then the PROFITS wouldnt be there for the cartels. Legalize it, allow people to grow theyre own, and watch the cartels move on to the next prohibited substance. Really, these things have got to be legalized. Law enforcement isnt stopping anything, they are just making cartels richer and richer by the pound.

    Just like how we are financing the terrorists with oil money. America has got to be the stupidest country in the entire WORLD. Yes, im American, but i like 99.9% of the population have zero power to affect any of their moronic policies.

    The life of an immigrant is a hard one, but every day it gets clearer that this country is a place that i dont want to live in.
  3. Just the fact that they're still stereotyping all smokers as hippies pisses me off enough... even though I like hippies :p

    It really must be nice to be so ignorant that you can have these beautiful little thoughts in your head that you can actually get rid of drug dealers and their plots of reefer. Do you think they believe in the tooth fairy, too? And maybe the sky is purple and rains down chocolate kisses and court dates for innocent people ^.^
  4. Man the poilce know that if pot was legal their would be nothing to bust normal good, tax paying citzen's. And yes i'm a hippie. i dont buy mexican weed. cause it maybe be shit or have bhud spray. but most of all. the people who grow it. or the leaders who grow it. a bunch of guys wanting to get millions from marijuana being illegal. i wouldnt be suprised if these people pay the government to keep it illegal!
  5. Actually, it's quite possible. You can get rid of drug cartels, gang wars, drive-by shootings, all of that. All you have to do is legalize it. Look what that did to the original gangsters after prohibition.
  6. Absolutely true. The drug dealers are in it for the money.
    If you legalize MJ you remove the motivation for the dealers to grow and sell.
    And as a little bonus, no people have to get shot anymore for a few plants during MJ drug busts or MJ ripoff deals.
    Another plus side of legalisation is on the police side, they will have more time to catch real criminals.

    There are no logical reasons NOT to legalize MJ, only emotional ones.
  7. true that, i would like to someday move to italy or any part of europe. europe is so much nicer than america imo.

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