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State Parks Attract Pot Growers

SirBlazinBowl

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The farm that stretched across four ridge tops in the Santa Cruz Mountains contained perhaps a dozen gardens. Along with thousands of marijuana plants, state agents and sheriff's deputies found fertilizer, pesticide, spring-loaded rat traps, 6- by 8-foot water pits lined with plastic, 50-pound bags of topsoil, bags of rice and beans, and, of course, human waste.

The fabulous climate and open spaces that lure millions of visitors to California's wilderness every year are drawing marijuana growers, too. And authorities say Mexican drug cartels have carved out farms even in some of the Bay Area's most pristine parks.

Along with the potential danger to hikers, hunters and police officers who run across a carefully guarded "grow," there is the "agricultural assault" the chemical-intensive farming is inflicting on the fragile ecosystems of California's back country.

"The violence and the potential for violence are certainly there," said Michael Johnson, commander of the state's coordinating agency for marijuana control. "The grows are larger, and the product is a more potent and more dangerous drug."

The raid on the well-tended farm in rural Santa Clara County near Mount Umunhum this month -- during which a state Fish and Game warden was shot in the legs and a worker at the farm was killed -- illustrated both the dangers and the sheer size of the operations officials are finding.

It also illustrates the growers' tendency to shift locations when the heat is on. In 1999, San Benito County led the state in number of plants seized. In 2003 it was Tulare County, and last year Riverside County.

Now, perhaps, operations are moving into the South Bay. Last Friday's raid netted more than 22,000 plants, and it followed a raid in the Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Santa Cruz County by a day. About a month ago, there was a raid at Castle Rock State Park.

In 1999, southern San Benito County yielded one of the largest single pot gardens ever found, with 48,185 plants. "I've got a plaque on my wall: 'Garden of the Year, Sept. 10, 1999,'" said San Benito County Sheriff Curtis Hill. Since then, the statewide total has grown from 241,164 plants seized to 621,315.

Officials warn that statistics and anecdotes may reflect only the tip of the iceberg.

Why has marijuana farming become such a growth industry? And why, increasingly, is it done in parks, national forests and other public lands?

"We've always known that smaller marijuana gardens were being grown, usually for personal use, on public lands throughout the country," said Alexandra Picavet, a ranger and spokeswoman for Sequoia National Park. "But since Sept. 11, 2001, when the borders became more secured, the problem has most certainly grown. We went from finding 5,000 plants in 2001 to 44,000 last year."

The increased security may have made it cheaper for Mexican drug cartels to grow pot here than to ship it across the border. In 2004, 80 percent of the plants seized came from gardens believed to be run by Mexican professionals; those gardens yielded $2 billion worth of marijuana. That percentage has been fairly consistent since the state first began keeping those statistics in 2001.

Others cite federal and state laws that let authorities seize and sell private homes or land involved in the drug trade. But Morgan Taylor, an assistant district attorney in Santa Cruz County, said the forfeiture of anything other than cash in a drug case is rare.

There's a much more practical reason not to grow marijuana on your own land. "Why would you," said Taylor, "if all they have to do is go to the county records and find out who it belongs to?"

People tend to take a more relaxed attitude toward marijuana than toward other, "harder," drugs.

"They don't pay attention to the real problem, which is: It's wholesale agriculture going on in wilderness areas," Picavet said. "It would be equally offensive if asparagus was being grown, or corn," she said, calling it "agricultural assault."

How does it assault the land? Let her count the ways: "We've found evidence of thousands of pounds of fertilizer, miles of irrigation hose ... herbicides, pesticides, Diazanon a banned insecticide. They've been damming up creeks. In some places they'll actually pour their fertilizers right into the creek that's been dammed up and irrigate straight from that.

"There are miles of trails cut," Picavet went on, "acres of understory cut, manzanita trees damaged from their putting the gardens under the trees for camouflage. We've found weapons in every camp we've gone into, or evidence of weapons, such as bullets or shell casings. They're leaving behind literally tons of garbage, propane canisters, human waste, food that's attracting animals. They're poaching animals."

Source: Record, The (Stockton, CA)
Copyright: 2005 The Record
Contact: editor@recordnet.com
Website: recordnet.com: Local & World News, Sports & Entertainment in Stockton, CA
 

J842P

New Member
That is fucked up.
It's a sad day when the stoners are fucking up the land.
 

Pinch

New Member
J842P said:
That is fucked up.
It's a sad day when the stoners are fucking up the land.


But these are not stoners per se. The growers work for Mexican Drug King Pins, they're wetbacks with a grow to stay alive mandate.. and yes they are fucking up the environment.. it's like the California Gold Rush.. just a different kinda California Gold (Green).
 

Toker Joe

New Member
it realy pisses me off to hear that people are fucking up natural parks -even if it's not in my own country - When are the authorities going to wake up? If they are as concerned about saving the eviroment - as they make out to be -they should just decriminalize cannabis and save the delicate ecosystems of the parks. they would also save money from going to othere countries as well as people getting shot - less grass smokers in jail means more place for the criminals. there woud also be more money in the govenment coffers to help the needy, like the homeless in their own country.

keep the world green -plant grass.
 
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