Archive for Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mexican drug gangs taking over U.S. public lands

March 2, 2010


Fresno County Sheriff’s Lt. Rick Ko walks through a campsite at an abandoned marijuana growing site in the Sequoia National Forest near Fresno, Calif.

Fresno County Sheriff’s Lt. Rick Ko walks through a campsite at an abandoned marijuana growing site in the Sequoia National Forest near Fresno, Calif.

— Not far from Yosemite’s waterfalls and in the middle of California’s redwood forests, 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.

Interviews conducted by The Associated Press with law enforcement officials across the country showed that Mexican gangs are largely responsible for a spike in large-scale marijuana farms over the last several years.

Local, state and federal agents found about a million more pot plants each year between 2004 and 2008, and authorities say an estimated 75 percent to 90 percent of the new marijuana farms can be linked to Mexican gangs.

In 2008 alone, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, police across the country confiscated or destroyed 7.6 million plants from about 20,000 outdoor plots.

Growing marijuana in the U.S. saves traffickers the risk and expense of smuggling their product across the border and allows gangs to produce their crops closer to local markets.

Distribution also becomes less risky. Once the marijuana is harvested and dried on the hidden farms, drug gangs can drive it to major cities, where it is distributed to street dealers and sold along with pot that was grown in Mexico.

About the only risk to the Mexican growers, experts say, is that a stray hiker or hunter could stumble onto a hidden field.

The remote plots are nestled under the cover of thick forest canopies in places such as Sequoia National Park, or hidden high in the rugged-yet-fertile Sierra Nevada Mountains. Others are secretly planted on remote stretches of Texas ranch land.

All of the sites are far from the eyes of law enforcement, where growers can take the time needed to grow far more potent marijuana. Farmers of these fields use illegal fertilizers to help the plants along, and use cloned female plants to reduce the amount of seed in the bud that is dried and eventually sold.

Mexican gang plots can often be distinguished from those of domestic-based growers, who usually cultivate much smaller fields with perhaps 100 plants and no security measures.

Some of the fields tied to the drug gangs have as many as 75,000 plants, each of which can yield at least a pound of pot annually, according to federal data reviewed by the AP.

The Sequoia National Forest in central California is covered in a patchwork of pot fields, most of which are hidden along mountain creeks and streams, far from hiking trails. It’s the same situation in the nearby Yosemite, Sequoia and Redwood national parks.

Even if they had the manpower to police the vast wilderness, authorities say terrain and weather conditions often keep them from finding the farms, except accidentally.

Many of the plots are encircled with crude explosives and are patrolled by guards armed with AK-47s who survey the perimeter from the ground and from perches high in the trees.

The farms are growing in sophistication and are increasingly cultivated by illegal immigrants, many of whom have been brought to the U.S. from Michoacan.

Growers once slept among their plants, but many of them now have campsites up to a mile away equipped with separate living and cooking areas.

“It’s amazing how they have changed the way they do business,” Wood said. “It’s their domain.”


SwissAm 8 years ago

The only way to combat this is to just legalize it already. Not only will it bring the price down (due to the mass increase of legal pot farmers) And it would kill the Mexican mafia almost overnight. The new quality from legal farmers would be more superior so no one would want to even buy mexican ditch weed when they can get a bag of premium grade for cheaper than what the lower quality sells for today. Allow the free markets to set price and "weed" out the bad growers. The other option is to hire millions more D.E.A agents and law enforcement and create a police state in our National Parks.

geekin_topekan 8 years ago

The so called War On Drugs concentrates its money on corporate prisons where thousands are incarcerated for lengthy terms for relatively petty drug crimes. Meanwhile, highly paid lobbyists are pushing for longer sentences and keeping marijuana illegal until its genetic properties can be controlled and patented.

Fear is what motivates this industry because a scared citizen is a generous citizen. The truth is, the industry wants those petty criminals on the streets. They want them breaking into your home and threatening your family. They need them to steal your car and rob you of your laptop. Why? Because it means Mo'Money,Mo'Money,Mo'Money!!

Putting these pot farms out of business is, well, bad for business. That is why they would rather arrest the street corner dealer. It is easy, safe and highly profitable.

Of course there will be an occasional big bust. Publicity keeps those tax dollars flowing into the private industry's hands. Don't be fooled for a second by the so called war on drugs. It is an industry that preys on tax payer's wallets and is a vicious cycle of fear, tax dollars and street level crime. All three components are necessary and you are the victim of this industry driven scam.

Here's an idea, focus on public education, and gun control if you want to be safe and keep the cartels out of the national parks. Put that 50Billion into something other than corporate prisons, lobbyists and showboating techniques.

Legalization and education is the key to an immediate end to this invasion. Or, you can continue to surrender to the Mexican gangs and give your money to the corporate gangs who require your home being invaded as part of the so called War on Drugs.

My opinion. Nothing more to see here. Coffee and gooey rolls for everybody.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

" Not only will it bring the price down (due to the mass increase of legal pot farmers)"

It wouldn't necessarily bring the retail price down-- but it would give farmers a good cash crop, create a legal distribution network, and a huge source of taxes for local, state and federal governments-- all at the expense of Mexican gangs and other criminal networks.

Calliope877 8 years ago

CNN posted an article on this several months ago. Gee...I guess nothing has changed.

headdoctor 8 years ago

But, but. If they make it legal and above board how is the US Government suppose to come up with the money to pay for the shady areas of the off budget programs? Any tax collected would then be on budget and potentially under scrutiny.

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

Head 'em up & move 'em out. There should be a daily caravan of buses taking illegal aliens on a one-way trip to the border.

Sigmund 8 years ago

This was from the AP? I was sure their style manual prefers "undocumented pharmaceutical marketing and sales organizations comprised mainly of entrepreneurs of Hispanic descent" and not "Mexican drug gangs."

beatrice 8 years ago

You guys are obsessing. A story about drugs and the neo-cons start harping about Obama. How silly.

headdoctor 8 years ago

TomShewmon (Tom Shewmon) says... What's a 'neo-con'?

Is Google broke? You are not a true Neo-Con. You are just part of the modern abominations of the Republican party. Not to be confused with the modern abominations of the Libertarians. Although the thought patterns are somewhat similar.

headdoctor 8 years ago

Tom, I figured I would help you out here. Just for the snicker if no other reason. Please note I didn't want to offend thy gray matter with a Wiki link. So I found something else you might be able to relate to better.

Ralph Reed 8 years ago

Actually bea, they're more like hard-line conservatives or tea-baggers. I think those are the terms you're looking for. Not coming to Tom's defense as it would be bad for his heart, but he's definitely not a neo-con.

From WSJ 30 Dec 2002: Max Boot, "What the Heck is a 'Neocon'?"

"But what the heck is a neocon anyway in 2003? A friend of mine suggests it means the kind of right-winger a liberal wouldn't be embarrassed to have over for cocktails. That's as good a definition as any, since the term has clearly come unmoored from its original meaning.

The original neocons were a band of liberal intellectuals who rebelled against the Democratic Party's leftward drift on defense issues in the 1970s. At first the neocons clustered around Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson, a Democrat, but then they aligned themselves with Ronald Reagan and the Republicans, who promised to confront Soviet expansionism. The neocons, in the famous formulation of one of their leaders, Irving Kristol, were "liberals mugged by reality." "

I wouldn't mind having Tom over for a beer (the others I'm not so sure about), it might even be interesting to get him out of his comfort zone in Linwood. But, he's not a neocon (again, not so sure about the others). The last sentence of my quote clearly makes that point.

There's more at Tom's favorite source for information.

So bea, I would suggest a better term of hard-right conservative or tea-bagger for those who immediately came out harping about President Obama.

Ricky_Vaughn 8 years ago

Who says Mexicans are lazy or worthless?

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Ricky_Vaughn 8 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Ralph Reed 8 years ago

Snap, Aren't the terms synonymous?

jaywalker 8 years ago

Freakin' ridiculous a plant that grows naturally on every continent except Antarctica is still illegal in this country. Oh well, can't think about that now since I need to get by the liquor store for some whiskey and wine, but not until I get my double espresso from 'Bucks.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

Somewhat ironically, neocons can usually also be described as neoliberal-- and both terms are nearly synonymous with "neo-colonial."

SLOPOKE 8 years ago

The only sensable thing to do,(and I echo ) the idea, is to make certain DRUG"S LEAGAL...Our country is Bankrupt... Why not generate revenue by Taxing rec. drug's. Booze, and Tobaco, are far more costly,it's part of the reason for the 21% cut in Medacare Coverage..I would much rather assoceate, or be around people that are Pot high any day as appsosed to being around a loop headed drunk. At least Pot has some medical advanages..I speak from experiance. If I were in need agin I would not hesitate to use it.. I will sign out and get some of this sunshine...You all carry on like I was;nt here...

cthulhu_4_president 8 years ago

This just in: Drugs win war on drugs.

That is all.

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

The two movements are the same only in the Bizzaro World of ralphie-land.

beatrice 8 years ago

Tom and barryp, did you read the article? "Local, state and federal agents found about a million more pot plants each year between 2004 and 2008, and authorities say an estimated 75 percent to 90 percent of the new marijuana farms can be linked to Mexican gangs."

Gee, who knew that Obama was President from 2004 - 2008.

RR, neocons are not hard-line conservatives, they are irrational, anti-intellectuals who are willing to flip their views based on who is or isn't in office. They absolutely put party above country, racism is rampant among them, and they hate their fellow Americans. Barry Goldwater was a hard-line conservative, and he wouldn't recognize this people who call themselves Republicans today.

Mixolydian 8 years ago

75x55 (anonymous) says... Just doin' the job that American drug gangs won't do.... ============================

They're taking our jerbs!

jaywalker 8 years ago


"Barry Goldwater was a hard-line conservative, and he wouldn't recognize this people who call themselves Republicans today.

Incredibly true, at least for a portion of today's Republicans. It would be nice if we had leaders like Goldwater again. Voting against the Civil Rights Act in '64 killed him, but he did for the 'right' reasons in that he stuck to his principles in regards to governmental roles.

Joe Hyde 8 years ago

With the advancements decades ago in radar technology that enable species-specific identification of plants by aircraft and satellites passing overhead, there is no reason for law enforcement not to know the exact whereabouts of these huge fields. The question then becomes: what if anything should be done about them?

I personally favor the decriminalization, if not outright legalization, of marijuana. One of the biggest benefits would be that legalization puts gangbanger crews like these guys out of business. How? Because the typical marijuana user is a peaceful, laid-back person who wants his or her product to have been produced or supplied by persons of similar peaceful intent. The involvement of violent individuals or violent gangs in the marijuana supply line is, for most smokers, the disgusting equivalent of their attitude toward "blood diamonds" obtained by the exploitation of slave miners.

To me, the greatest worry about this story is not the marijuana growing but the use of violence, or the threat of violence, to protect the fields from discovery by people who would accidentally stumble into the operations. It would be interesting to know if any assaults, shootings, ambushes, etc. have been committed against public land visitors in these areas. There was no mention of that in the article.

Our U.S. public lands are about the last remaining places in America where citizens can get away and enjoy the natural world in solitude. So whether these people are drug gang members, whether they are home based in Mexico, all that is irrelevant. Any group conducting an illegal operation on public lands that protects the operation by using assault rifles and tripwire explosives, all such groups need to be taken out.

It wouldn't be hard. On a regular basis perform radar sweeps of the vegetated areas. As needed, divert a UAV recon drone from Iraq or Afghanistan, re-assign a Special Forces A Team to sweep these areas, and if any gangbangers in those little outlaw cabin hideouts raises the barrel of an AK...

beatrice 8 years ago

barry: "I read the story and remember the part where it said they were 'Mexicans""

Got it. So you hate Mexicans too. What a winner you are!

Stuart Evans 8 years ago

The war on drugs has cost more lives and more money than Viet Nam. The main difference is that we finally left Viet Nam to work itself out.

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

So ralphralph talking about tea-baggers is okay, but when I explain what that actually means, my post gets disappeareded? Double standard.

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