Pubdate: Fri, 16 Nov 2007
Source: Paradise Post (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Paradise Post
Bookmark: (Marijuana - California)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


The Campaign Against Marijuana Planters announced on Nov. 13 it had a
record year of marijuana plants seized. But the high numbers of
seizures may be forcing growers to move from outdoor locations in
public lands into suburban homes and neighborhoods.

A total of 2.9 million plants were seized statewide. Butte County
ranked 24th out of 38 counties with CAMP records. Seventy-five percent
of the plants taken by CAMP were from public lands. Mexican drug
traffickers have been attributed to 80 percent of the marijuana
gardens, CAMP Special Agent Holly Swartz said. The Butte County
Sheriff's Department has recorded more than 43,000 seized plants, 85
pounds of the seized marijuana and 22 arrests, Sgt. Stephen Collins
said. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center Web site, the
outdoor raids have caused the Caucasian growers to move to indoor planting.

"Indoor cannabis cultivation is increasing in some areas of the county
as growers attempt to avoid outdoor eradication and attain higher
profits though production of indoor grown high-potency marijuana,"
according to the site. "Federal, state and local law enforcement
reporting indicates that vigorous outdoor cannabis eradication efforts
have caused many marijuana producers, particularly Caucasian groups,
to relocate indoors even in leading outdoor grow sites such as
California and Tennessee."

The growers moving to indoor operations can make more money because
they can grow year round indoors, according the intelligence center
Web site.

"In addition to the reduced risk of detection, indoor cannabis
cultivators benefit from higher profit because cultivation is a
year-round process with four to six harvests per year and controlled
conditions that enable growers to produce high-quality marijuana that
commands higher prices in most drug markets " according to the site

Marijuana also reached its highest recorded level last year, according
to the site. The potency was measured by The University of Mississippi
Potency Monitoring Project. It has measured marijuana potency since
1975 by the percentage of delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol, or THC, the
psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, according to the site.

In 2006 THC levels had doubled since 1996. The increased potency was
attributed by the project in part to indoor growing. Bruce Mirken,
Director of Communications for the Marijuana Policy Project said
cannabis cultivation has moved indoors. "It certainly seems to have
emerged as a phenomenon in the past few years," he said.

The trend may be due to government programs aimed at outdoor growth,
Mirken said. "It is synonymous with CAMP and similar programs," he

Citing a Department of Justice Web site and the drug intelligence
center reports Mirken said DOJ agreed with the trend too. "The
Department of Justice has confirmed everything we've been saying about
CAMP all year," he said in a press release.

The marijuana eradication programs have been running for 30 years,
without any progress, Mirken said. He quoted Einstein as saying the
definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over
expecting different results."

"If you want criminal gangs moving in next door to grow marijuana, if
you want to make those criminals unbelievably rich, and if you want to
guarantee that marijuana becomes more potent, current policies are
working perfectly," he said in the release. "If you think that's
crazy, then it's time for California to regulate marijuana production
just like we regulate wine."

Marijuana and wine are comparable, Mirken said.

"The two are similar, both are ag products and both are not for kids,"
he said.

The difference is one is taxed, regulated and follows laws including
employee rights, he said.

"The others is completely uncontrolled," he said.

The prohibition of marijuana can be changed with public involvement,
Mirken said. Prohibition of alcohol made Al Capone rich and was not
successful in controlling alcohol, he said.

"There is a reason you never here criminal gangs planting vineyards in
homes and in national parks," he said.

The eradication programs may feel they are doing a good job, he said.
"I should let them speak for themselves. The drug war is a
bureaucracy, they are invested in defending their turf they'd say it's
necessary," he said.

Special agent Swartz said the Marijuana Policy Project's information
is not entirely accurate.

"From our intelligence, it is not necessarily true," she said. "The
outdoor gardens are 80 percent run by Mexican drug

The indoor gardens are primarily run by Caucasian and Asian drug
traffickers. Based on that, she said the raids on outdoor crops don't
translate to Mexican drug cartels moving indoors. The regulation of
marijuana wouldn't solve the problem either, Swartz said.

"Based on what I know about drug trafficking, if marijuana was
regulated, Mexican (drug traffickers) wouldn't obey any of the laws,"
she said. "It's just like any other black market. I don't know that
any regulation would solve that problem."

The market also brings with it harder drugs like methamphetamine,
Swartz said. "You have to remember when there is marijuana, there are
other drugs," she said.

The legalization and regulation of drugs is not her business, Swartz

"It's an issue for the legislature not for law enforcement," she said.
"It's hard to predict what would change. It's not my call to make."
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake