Drug Gangs on Public Lands

March, 2010

I’ve known for several years that there has been considerable pot-growing activity on national forest lands. These have been reported to be small-scale operations by individuals looking for personal income. Forest officials in the affected areas have advised hikers and hunters to be aware of possible booby-traps around marijuana “pot patches,” but otherwise not too much was made of the situation. The public was assured that law enforcement agencies were actively seeking out and destroying these illicit gardens as an on-going part of the national “war on drug” effort.

Now comes this report from the Associated Press:

Mexican drug gangs are quietly commandeering U.S. public land to grow millions of marijuana plants and using smuggled immigrants to cultivate them.

Pot has been grown on public lands for decades, but Mexican traffickers have taken it to a whole new level: using armed guards and trip wires to safeguard sprawling plots that in some cases contain tens of thousands of plants offering a potential yield of more than 30 tons of pot a year.

“Just like the Mexicans took over the methamphetamine trade, they’ve gone to mega, monster gardens,” said Brent Wood, a supervisor for the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement. He said Mexican traffickers have “supersized” the marijuana trade.

The report claims that Sequoia National Forest in central California is covered in a patchwork of pot fields, as is nearby Yosemite, Sequoia and Redwood national parks. Also included are eastern Washington lands of the Wenatchee and Okanogan national forests.

When I was much younger, I worked summers as a Forest Service fire tower lookout, spending the summer fire season living in a 30-foot mountain tower. The lookouts were replaced with fixed wing airplane fire spotter patrols, and the airborne smoke-jumper crews were largely replaced by helicopter-carried “helitack” crews.

Now I had always assumed that routine public land airplane and helicopter fire-spotter patrols could also pick out the brilliant green of marijuana gardens from the darker evergreen forest canopy. Maybe that’s not part of the contract description.

I don’t know whether we should accept that our government intends to hand over the public lands to the Mexican gangs; or if we’ve totally surrendered the so-called “War on Drugs,” or if we’ve simply become so incompetent or apathetic that we’re now helplessly ineffectual to put up much of a fight.

But then again, it’s a hell of a lot easier to just let the local cops arrest our kids for carrying a baggie, and we as parents and grandparents get to pay additional taxes to build yet another new prison. The number one cash industry of rural America is marijuana production; the number one employment growth industry of rural America are new prisons. Check it out.


Drug Gangs on Public Lands © Graybyrd 2015