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Marijuana growers worsening California drought

Officials in California's drought-plagued Mendocino County have noted that large-scale marijuana plots have drained rivers and streams.

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His views are echoed by Ron Pugh, a US Forest Service special agent, who was quoted in the spring issue of Terrain, a Northern California environmental magazine:

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Says Pugh about the sheer volume of grows, “This is not a hippie thing.” He’s come prepared with a list of comparisons between a “hippie” grow and a DTO site—one maintained by a drug trafficking organization. A traditional garden on public lands, Pugh says, has one or two growers and fewer than fifty plants. The gardener, who lives locally, hikes in every other day or so, carrying water for his plants. Firearms are uncommon, and locations are predictable. “They’re within a quarter mile of a road,” Pugh explains, “and they’re rarely uphill. White guys are lazy.”
The DTO sites, on the other hand, are as remote as the growers can get, often three miles from the nearest road. They contain an average of 6,600 plants, tended by an average of seven growers who live in tents the entire season, from May to October. The growers are aided by scanners, radios, night-vision goggles, an arsenal of weapons, and truckloads of plastic pipe to divert area streams to their plants, sometimes from as far as a half-mile away. When they abandon the site in the fall, they leave behind mountains of trash, about as much trash as a small city dump.

Writing for Blue Living Ideas, a news website that covers water issues, Jennifer Lance notes that only 1 in 8 of those arrested in Mendocino this season for growing marijuana are from the county. She also notes that the county's district attorney is investigating at least one recently seized grow operation for "environmental crimes" and "water diversion," on top of drug crimes.

Update: Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, DC, advocacy group that seeks to remove criminal penalties for marijuana use, obviously has a different take. Read his comment here.

[Hat tip to Blue Living Ideas]

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Editor’s note: For more articles about the environment, see the Monitor’s main environment page, which offers information on many environment topics. Also, check out our Bright Green blog archive and our RSS feed.

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