Another week, another PTSD-inducing series of military-backed raids on American citizens on their private land here in California as Northern California’s deeply rooted cannabis community continues to endure the wrath of regulation enforcement that came with legalization.
Don’t get it twisted, for most of these hardened farmers, growing weed has always been illegal but it was always a pretty low priority for law enforcement, as it should be in the remote regions of the Emerald Triangle and surrounding area. But now cannabis culture is being pruned, leaf by leaf, by the cannabis industry, an industry in which the state government is a vested shareholder. Like any greedy investor or business partner, everyone from Governor Newsom on down the ranks of state government is now pitching a fit that profits are not matching predictions and their ire has been turned toward the root of the unregulated market which they claim is crippling legal weed’s potential.
And so now we are seeing weekly aerial and land-based assaults on rural roads and ranches across California in what local and state law enforcement officials are calling a campaign to crack down on unregulated cannabis growers who are allegedly harming the environment by diverting waterways, haphazardly using pesticides and rodent poisons, and more.
Take, for example, this press release put out yesterday:
Operation Cleansweep - Eel River Watershed, Mendocino County. 7/15/19: During the week of July 15th-19th, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office will be collaborating with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CalCannabis Licensing), California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Water Resource Board, Cal Fire and the California Army National Guard to serve search warrants on public/private lands to investigate identified illegal cannabis cultivation sites.
All the sites will be those of non-permitted cannabis cultivation sites that are believed to be involved in water diversion and other situations of environmental degradation that impacts several watersheds in the greater Eel River area of Northern Mendocino County.
The collaboration includes pre-identified sites that do not have cannabis permits, state water permits for cannabis or permits from Cal Fire for deforestation and legal tree removal.
Cannabis farms that are licensed through the California Department of Food and Agriculture's CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing Division will not be the focus of this operation.
CalCannabis Licensing Inspectors will be participating in Operation Clean Sweep and have been an essential resource in the Operation's pre-identification process of the sites to be investigated.
Captain Gregory L. Van Patten #1184
So far, to their credit, local cops and their National Guard colleagues have arrested surprisingly few people, especially considering how many plants and how much harvested/processed weed they are confiscating from these allegedly unpermitted operations.
An operation very similar to the one described above was carried out just last week, a bit further down the coast in in the Boulder Creek region of Santa Cruz where 11 farms got rolled in one day and authorities confiscated 1,686 cannabis plants, 1,176 cannabis vaping cartridges, nearly 132 pounds of processed cannabis, two guns and several thousand cannabis seeds packaged up and ready for sale. Hell, one of the frustrated farmers even used his tractor to drag a giant log across the road leading to his property in order to thwart the pigs, but they still got through and at the end of the day neither that roadblockin’ reefer wrangler or any of his fellow farmers got arrested. I mean, nearly $60,000 in fines were levied against them but at least people were not put behind bars over a plant.
But not every story has such an ending, and although the cops want the general public to believe that their intent is only to protect the environment, you don’t even need to leave the Emerald Triangle to smoke out that hypocrisy.
Timber companies have been ravaging the fertile lands of the Emerald Triangle for well over a century, irreparably destroying watersheds, clearcutting trees, and poisoning the earth with toxins like 2,4-D, glyphosate and worse. Illegal roads are cut through the hillsides in order to expedite the entire horrific process while controlled brush fires litter the landscape with ash and soot.
If we are to believe that California cops are simply enforcing environmental protections, then the Samoa Pulp Mill, originally established in the mid-1960’s, is a prime example of how law enforcement picks and chooses who to go after. Since its inception, the Samoa Pulp Mill has changed names frequently but has remained as a serial polluter and a bane on the residents forced to live in its shadow.
Nearly a decade ago, on July 9th of 2010, the California Water Resources Board weighed in with its thoughts on the company, saying, “As you are no doubt aware, the Samoa Pulp Mill has a long history of violations stemming from the facility's inability to meet applicable effluent limitations due to its lack of secondary treatment. Since being formed in July of 2006, OE has been involved in two administrative civil liability actions against the prior owners of the Samoa Pulp Mill, Evergreen Pulp Inc. Those efforts resulted in the Regional Water Board imposing over $900,000 in liability against Evergreen....To date the Regional Water Board has not been able to collect any portion of the liability imposed against Evergreen."
$900k?! Where are the Blackhawk helicopters and Call of Duty-clad warriors kicking down the doors of those executives’ homes?
We are all for environmental protection but in today’s cases, and in any case, the existence of a cannabis permit or not is irrelevant. Environmental crimes are crimes against sovereign people as a whole including the entire ecological system of which we are a part of.
Instead what we are seeing, to put it lightly, is an abuse of prosecutorial discretion.
Why? Because despite the fact that law enforcement officers conducting these raids look like they fell out of a Schwarzenegger flick, everyone knows that cannabis consumers and farmers are some of the most peaceful people on earth. We are an easy target and we rarely pose any sort of threat.
I for one refuse to believe that law enforcement has no intention of going after responsible, sustainable cannabis farmers who also happen to be unpermitted. With legal market databases and the rest of the internet at their fingertips, it is easier than ever for law enforcement to make a list of potential targets and that is exactly what we are seeing now. The regulatory agencies are working hand in hand with law enforcement to go after those that have elected not to assimilate into the legal market.
Meanwhile, in that legal market, permit/licensing fees and taxes are way too high, there is not enough variety on the shelves of what amounts to far too few dispensaries, and some 70% of California counties have banned commercial cannabis activity altogether. So you are faced with two choices: pack up and move or break the law. For a countless number of rebel growers who never had much use for the law to begin with, that has been an easy choice.
Once we start seeing armored personnel carriers storming the parking lots of oil and lumber companies we’ll give the state some slack but until then they ought to give some to the struggling small farmers just trying to survive in a whole new world of so-called “legal” weed.