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A California Sheriff who patrols one of the busiest counties for marijuana cultivation said the state's legalization of marijuana has made conditions more dangerous for residents, his deputies, and the environment.
Mendocino County is located in Northern California and is home to major marijuana grows. California legalized marijuana in November 2016 when voters voted to pass Proposition 64.
"Many folks, including myself, hoped the legalization of marijuana would simply end the criminal issues associated with cultivation," Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall wrote. "Sadly, extremely dangerous behaviors which are associated with the illegal cultivation of marijuana are continuing in our county. During the month of August 2023, our deputies participated in several search warrants throughout Mendocino County. Over twenty locations were targeted for illegal cannabis, where serious environmental crimes were suspected of taking place.
The county is home to several large marijuana grow operations, including many that are illegally operated and fly under the radar of regulation.
"During these operations, over 70,000 marijuana plants were located and eradicated," he added. "Over 9,000 pounds of processed marijuana and 23 guns were seized. Out of the 20 locations, more than half had highly dangerous pesticides that are banned in the United States due to their toxic potency."
He said the conditions at some unregulated sites are harming the county's environment.
"All locations had severe environmental impacts, which included: polluting of the waterways, illegal grading, water diversions, dammed creeks, fuel/oil in the creeks, and water pumps diverting water from creeks," Kendall explained. "Several of these locations had deplorable living conditions with minimal food. One location had a poached deer.
In addition, Kendall said deputies have found poisonous chemicals at grow sites including Monitor, Zinc Phosphide, Methyl Parathion, Methamidophos, Carbofuran, and Weevil-Cide.
"These are all banned in the United States," he said. "These recent issues are becoming a pattern. These items can poison waterways and leave lands uninhabitable. The chemicals used have been described as “a circle of death”. Research has shown a quarter teaspoon can kill a 400-pound bear in minutes, scavengers then feed on the carcass and are also poisoned."
He said the chemicals have likely been smuggled from Mexico and South American Countries.
"This is creating a dangerous situation for persons tending the grow sites as well as the law enforcement teams who are investigating and eradicating the sites," he said. "As we continue to investigate these grow sites, we have adjusted our tactics in an attempt to keep our personnel safe."