Pro-crime policies work.
Last week I wrote about California’s insane new war on drugs. Not because it’s against drugs, but because it wants sole control over drug revenues.
Every few months brings another massive bust. A 40-acre illegal pot farm in an obscure part of Death Valley, the “most elaborate illegal marijuana” setup in Mendota with 50,000 pot plants that was so big that police could smell it from 1,100 feet in the air, “vast groves” worth $169 million in the eastern Sierras, and $285 million in the old Shasta region of the gold rush.
An ounce of pot is estimated to cost as much as $100 more bought legally than on the street. The profit margins are great and decriminalization expanded the illegal market even more than the legal one.
Mexican cartels now control much of the wilderness that California’s militant environmentalists had insisted on protecting from development. But while developers might fear the Sierra Club and its government allies, the cartels and the immigrant growers under their control don’t. What they’re afraid of is having their throats cut in the middle of the night. And as massive marijuana growing operations take off in wilderness areas, it turns out that the environmentalists were saving all that land so that drug lords from south of the border could grow millions in pot.
While California’s legal agriculture industries are dying: its illegal pot industries are prospering.
Julio Rosas at Town Hall reports what that looks like on the ground.
Being followed when they leave the house. Being shown pictures of a bullet-ridden truck with a person still inside. Encountering aggressive drivers on roads. Having illegal grow houses next door. Having water stolen from their farms. These are some of the examples of what northern Los Angeles County residents say they have experienced by the people who are running illegal marijuana farms…
Rep. Mike Garcia (R-CA) and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told the meeting when they each did an air tour of the areas in north L.A. County, they realized it was as bad as the calls were saying it was. The problem has been persistent for a while, but it gained major steam within the last year.
“We did a survey way back in 2020, during the [COVID-19] pandemic…150 illegal grows, the ones you can count easily from the air. So when we did it again this year, that number grew to 500 in one year. So there was a noticeable shift in acceleration,” Villanueva explained, adding the illegal dispensaries are outnumbering the legal businesses 50-1.
The cartels are running the show and there’s no meaningful enforcement mechanism. When California Democrats dismantled the war on drugs, they eliminated meaningful penalties for it. Busting illegal grows is a long way from the old drug war. And with marijuana decriminalized, drug dealers can sell the illegal product as easily as the legal one.
Meanwhile what’s left of California’s agriculture is paying the price.
With the massive number of illegal farms, their biggest issue is the same as anyone who lives in the desert climate: water. Each plant requires three gallons of water per day, leading the cartels to steal water from residents and farms.
Everything they’re doing to the environment and to the groundwater. They were stealing our water. They had a mile and a half waterline that went across the road…they were pumping the water out and our water company only services 35 homes, so once the water’s gone, it’s gone.”
And there’s the expected violence.
One couple described how, while hiking in the places they have hiked for years, one of the cartel workers approached and threatened them to never return to the area.
“He showed us a picture of a truck, by the way, they have pictures of us, they know where we live… He showed us a truck with three bullet holes in it and the guy was still in it. And he said, ‘This is what will happen to you if you come back out again.’ So we are always followed and they’re always watching us… they watch us all the time,” they said.
“We’re not sure what to do at this point because we hiked those mountains for 25 years. We’ve hiked those mountains numerous times, never been bothered… now we can’t even do anything,” they added. “We’re scared. We go out to our yard, they’re right there!”
And the border connection.
The illegal aliens coming across the border are looking for lucrative work. Fewer are sticking to California unless they’re going into illegal, but profitable businesses.
Garica promised the residents that everyone from the city to the federal level is still committed to putting pressure on the cartels who run the farms but acknowledged “this is the wild west again.”
Garica told me he believes part of the reason why the expansion of illegal pot farms got out of hand is because officials viewed the product as harmless but did not factor in those who operate the farms. He also said the increase in illegal grows and cash going to the cartels is a byproduct of the current crisis at the southern border.
“Right now what the cartels have in the local areas now: unlimited resources, a zero-cost basis crop, and they’ve got effectively free indentured labor and the bench for that is extremely deep. Basically, an unlimited employee base to tap into as these borders are open,” he said, noting they are around 200 miles north of the border and yet the cartels are operating with a lot of freedom in his district.
Villanueva told the meeting many of the workers they took into custody during the operation were in the country illegally and some had come to the United States only a week before.
Illegal migration and organized crime were always deeply intertwined. It’s a component of the issue that a lot of Republicans were missing. Whether it’s illegal Chinese immigrants and the triads or the cartels and the border crisis, the two elements are connected.
Where there’s organized crime, there’s illegal migration. And vice versa.