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Tuesday, 03 August 2010 00:53

California’s Public Lands Are Threatened: Could parts of California’s forests and other public lands be closed off to the public because they are too dangerous for people to use due to heavily armed Mexican drug cartel members? It is possible. Perhaps you are thinking “prove it!” Consider the following. Recently the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife posted signs warning visitors to Arizona’s Buenas Aeries Wildlife Recreation Area to beware of armed drug smugglers and human traffickers. Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said that “public use of the area is not prudent. The violence against law enforcement officers and U.S. citizens has increased in the past four months, further underscoring the need to keep the 80 miles of border land off-limits to Americans.”i In 2007 a significant portion of Whiskeytown National Recreational Area in Northern California was closed for a short time to ensure visitor safety due to the possibility of an outstanding suspect armed with a shotgun who fled from a marijuana grow site.

Marijuana and Violence Are International Partners: Marijuana is the greatest revenue source for Mexican drug cartels. In 2007 marijuana earned the cartels $8.5 billion.ii The drug trade is so profitable that El Chapo Guzman head of the Sinaloa cartel was listed in Forbes Magazine as one of the world’s billionaires in 2009.iii But Guzman isn’t a businessman; he’s a ruthless cartel leader who issued orders to his followers to use deadly force to protect their drugs when challenged by rivals or authorities.iv The Mexican cartels are at war with each other and with the Mexican Government. At least 23,000 people (in Mexico) have been killed in drug-related violence since December 2006.v Expectations are that the violence will eventually spill over into the U.S. There are some indications that this may already be occurring. California law enforcement needs to be prepared for increasing violence. Few people in Northern California can forget that marijuana growers shot a man and his 8 year old son while they were hunting in El Dorado County in November 2000.

California’s Drug Cartels and Marijuana Violence: California produces more marijuana from outdoor grow locations than any other state and may grow more marijuana than Mexico.vi Nearly 80% of the grows are on public lands in this state and most are occupied by two or three illegal aliens. There were nearly 2,000 grows eradicated during 2009; it’s possible that there were nearly 4,000 armed illegal aliens in the forests of this state last year. Nearly 90% of those arrested were from Michoacán Mexico. One news report said that the La Familia Michoacána (LFM) cartel employs 65,000 farmers growing marijuana in Michoacán.vii The LFM cartel may be the most violent and its associates may pose the greatest threat in California. Since 2004, the Central Valley California HIDTA has been studying the escalating violence associated with the growing of cannabis throughout California. The increasing involvement of highly organized drug trafficking organizations protecting their investment or competing for territory and market share has elevated the dangers surrounding cannabis growing from “pot users merely growing their stash” to what the National Geographic News called it (a) “Marijuana War Smolders on U.S. Public Lands.viii Cartels have hired and trained killers and gang members to ensure their territorial control. The cartel members have already demonstrated a capacity for wanton brutality and unspeakable viciousness in their battles with each other, the military and law enforcement in Mexico.

The Meaning for California: In addition to the human toll, marijuana growing damages forest lands. Estimates are that up to 77,697 acres (121 square miles) may be used to grow marijuana in this state. The environment is damaged in a multitude of ways and the costs to reclaim it range from $2,000 to $14,000 per acre. Marijuana is not a harmless organic plant as the proponents of legalization infer. Since 2007 the following are a few of the violent incents reported:

• 12 deaths associated with growing marijuana many of which were homicides of illegal Mexican aliens.

• Marijuana growers started seven (7) forest fires and one of the wildfires burned over 150 square miles of forests threatening homes and people.

• Over 50 different incidents where forest works, hikers and campers reported being frightened when they came upon marijuana growing operations

• 20 bodily assaults were reported during this period. Many other violent acts occurred that went unreported due to fear of reprisals.

• Law enforcement officers encountered armed and violent individuals on 5 different occasions; several of these involved exchanges of gunfire.

The 2010 outdoor marijuana eradication season began with a spate of violent incidents. The following recap is current of July 1st yet there are 4 months remaining in the growing season. The events included:

Ø April 27, 2010: A marijuana grower in Maricopa County was shot in the chest by another Hispanic male grower

Ø May 25, 2010; A marijuana growers body was found wrapped in black plastic alongside a road in Tuolumne County.

Ø June 29, 2010; Napa County Deputies were confronted by an armed suspect in remote marijuana grow site; the individual was shot and killed.

Ø June 29, 2010; A Mendocino County Deputy Sheriff was driving his vehicle following the eradication of 22,000 marijuana plants when someone shot out his rear window.

We can expect the violence in California to continue. It may in fact escalate when drug cartels vie for control of this billion dollar industry and scarce law enforcement resources will be hard-pressed to control it. This month, the members of the Nogales (AZ) Police Department are under death threats from Mexican drug cartels because they seized a large load of marijuana from smugglers while in a off-duty status. “The cartel’s belief is that when officers are not in uniform, they should look away and not do their job.”ix Several of the Mexican drug cartels already have a strong foothold in California. As the user base of marijuana increases, so does the profitability of growing and distributing the drug by criminal enterprises. California may be teetering on the edge of a new and darker era.

i Uptick in Violence Forces Closing of Parkland Along Mexico Border to Americans, www.FoxNews.com, 6-16-10

ii Stakes Rise as Drug War Threatens to Cross Border, http://www.cnn.com, May 18, 2009 iii Ibid iv Sinaloa Cartel May Resort to Deadly Force in U.S., Los Angeles Times, May 6, 2009

v Calderon calls on Mexicans to unite against drug gangs, www.latimes.com June 30, 2010 vi Marijuana Production in California, Central Valley California HIDTA Research Paper, June 4, 2010 vii Mexican Cartel Deals Drugs, Violence with Religious Fervor, by Tim Johnson, McClatchy Newspapers, June 22, 2010. viii www.nationalgeographic.com/news/pf/69453298.html

ix Quote by Nogales Police Department Chief of Police, Jeff Kirkham, Mexican drug cartel threatens Nogales police officers, www.kgun9.com, June 22, 2010

 

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