(NPR) Retired Humboldt County Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Cobine says cultivating cannabis is now a big business in state forests and private timberlands.
This year, CAMP [Campaign Against Marijuana Planting] hauled in 4.5 million plants from around California. But Cobine admits that’s a tiny percentage of what’s really out there.
“We’re just keeping a lid on it so it doesn’t go crazy,” Cobine says.
Instead of burning the confiscated plants like they used to do, Sheriff’s Sgt. Wayne Hanson says they bury them in undisclosed locations.
“Basically, [a] marijuana plant’s 90 percent water,” he says. “So we dig a hole 10 feet down, throw a bunch of soil on it, and it’s basically destroyed then, just by the compression of the earth.”
As they haul off a truckload of confiscated plants, Hanson makes a somewhat surprising admission.
“Part of me wants marijuana legalized,” he says, “’cause it would take away the wealth and the greed and the violence.”
But he says it would have to be legalized in all of the U.S., not just California. “Cause if it gets legalized in California, you’d have all the riffraff coming to California to make money to sell to the other 49 states,” he says.
Does anyone else see the irony in clandestine growers digging up the earth to plant some cannabis, only to have sheriff’s deputies pull it up and dig up more earth to bury it?
We’ve reported previously about the futility of CAMP and other marijuana eradication programs. Retired Sheriff Cobine admits that 4.5 million plants is just a tiny percentage, which suggests to us there are hundreds of millions of cannabis plants being grown in California.
Imagine if they weren’t “keeping a lid on it”!
Not only are the authorities barely scratching the surface of California’s clandestine cannabis cultivation operations, but most of what they seize isn’t even meant for consumers or tended by humans; it’s 98%-99% “feral hemp”, a.k.a. “ditchweed”, the wild-growing cannabis with very low THC content. Plus, when they rip up the crops, they often transport them off of mountainsides by loading them into large open bundles that are dangled from a helicopter, with the downward-rushing air of the chopper blowing hemp seeds all over the landscape below. (Nothing like planting the seeds of your next season’s eradication campaign… talk about job security!)
Thus, as California struggles with a crippling budget crisis and makes cuts higher education, public health, and other programs, possibly for years to come, somehow the Golden State finds the money for fuel, maintenance, and operation of helicopters and overtime pay for police to pull weeds and dig holes. There’s $1.4 billion on the table in potential tax revenue from re-legalized cannabis, but California law enforcement would rather continue an eradication program that keeps illegal growers’ profits high, forces them farther into our public lands, motivates them to produce more potent cannabis, produces environmental damage and waste, burns through taxpayer money and rejects new tax revenue. In other words, while California tuitions rise and public services drop, California is spending taxpayer dollars to subsidize a program they readily admit has no chance at actually eradicating cannabis but will promote “wealth and greed and violence”.
Sheriff Hanson, the part of you that wants to see marijuana legalized is called the neo-cortex. It’s that part of the brain that processes rational thought.
However, sheriff, you’ve got it backwards on re-legalization. Marijuana prohibition was enacted state-by-state and it will be repealed state-by-state. The federal government is moving much slower than the states on the issue. When California re-legalizes, the benefits they reap in tax revenues, new industry*, new jobs, reduced crime, criminal justice savings, and tourism will quickly spur neighboring states into following their lead. If there is an interim period when California is the only source of legal marijuana in the US, at least the “riffraff” will be rushing in to purchase legal and taxed California marijuana, keeping the dollars in the US economy, rather than benefiting the Mexican drug gangs.
*Lest we forget, legalized marijuana automatically means legalized hemp and the huge benefits of that industry.