RIVERSIDE COUNTY: Authorities battle booming marijuana grows

The following very pertinent comment re illegal growing of marijuana in California was sent by Monte Stiles of Drugwatch International.

Despite extremely liberal laws and policies in California regarding marijuana, the black market continues to thrive. Those who naively argue that drug dealers will go away when pot is taxed and regulated know little about how the black market operates, and why. 

The underground drug business operates to avoid the law. In the case of legalization, the black market operates to avoid taxes and regulation. The same holds true for other legal commodities such as tobacco and prescription drugs. Does anyone really think that strict regulation has stopped the illegal sale of prescription drugs, or the sale of untaxed cigarettes in New York City?

The bottom line is demand. Until we impact the demand side in a big way, through prevention and eduction, the drug dealers (or the state) will continue to exact payment for their dangerous products. Education works when we do enough of it. Surrender to the drug culture is not a valid option. Monte

RIVERSIDE COUNTY: Authorities battle booming marijuana grows

A boom in illegal backyard marijuana grows – rumoured to be driven by Mexican drug cartels – has sown fear among residents in the unincorporated areas of Riverside County.

In Mead Valley, near Perris, a marijuana garden was growing in plain sight less than 50 yards from a playground. High-powered weapons, such as AK-47s, have been found at some of the grows. And there was a marijuana grow at the scene of a fatal shooting in August.

Sheriff’s officials say they are well aware of the increase in illegal marijuana grows and are aggressively investigating them, but they have disclosed little about their progress or what is driving the trend.

Riverside County Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, who raised the alarm about illegal activity earlier this year after receiving complaints from constituents, said his staff counted more than 300 marijuana gardens in his district alone. “It’s frankly scaring the hell out of the neighbors,” Jeffries said.

Residents have seen armed men around the grows and fear violent crimes in their neighborhoods are linked to them, he said. They have told Jeffries’ staff that people have been approaching property owners offering thousands of dollars to rent their land to grow marijuana and that the grows are affiliated with two particular Mexican drug cartels.

Jeffries has proposed an ordinance to crack down on for-profit marijuana growing, but he has encountered resistance from medical marijuana advocates.

Although Mead Valley and neighboring Good Hope are hot spots for growing, Jeffries said the problem is widespread across the western portion of the county. Among the communities where sheriff’s officials have investigated marijuana grows this year are Norco, Woodcrest, De Luz, Romoland, Nuevo and Anza.

The Sheriff’s Department is greatly concerned about it,” Chief Deputy Patricia Knudson said of the increase. Though the department has a grant-funded marijuana eradication team that targets illegal marijuana growing, she said, it is dealing with a large number of grows and the investigation process is labor-intensive. Sorting out whether a grow is for-profit or for legitimate medicinal purposes can be particularly time-consuming, she said.

Sheriff’s officials said they received 300 reports of outdoor marijuana grows across the county this year. As of early October, the sheriff’s Special Investigations Bureau, which handles drug cases, had eradicated a total of 63 outdoor marijuana grows – some on public land – and made 66 arrests for illegal marijuana growing, sheriff’s officials said. That figure doesn’t include any grows eradicated by the local sheriff’s stations.

Sheriff’s officials declined to disclose details about their investigations, though they did say investigators have found no direct link to Mexican drug cartels. “We have rumours and innuendo,” Knudson said, adding that if members of the public have information, they should report it.

Source:http://www.pe.com/articles/marijuana-752347-grows-sheriff.html Oct.19th 2014

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