Pubdate: Fri, 24 Jul 2009 Source: Oroville Mercury-Register (CA) Copyright: 2009 Oroville Mercury Register Contact: http://www.orovillemr.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/2277 Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/opinion.htm (Opinion) Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?115 (Marijuana - California) MARIJUANA NOT 'HARMLESS' DRUG The presence of Mexican drug cartels is growing in the hills of Northern California. We shouldn't make it easy for them. It's almost marijuana harvest season, which means it's now marijuana eradication season. For the small minority who declare law enforcement should just leave those "poor pot farmers" and their "harmless" drug alone, we say just the opposite: "Go get 'em." Two marijuana busts in the last week illustrate part of a growing trend in Northern California the past few years. The huge plantations hidden in the hills aren't usually operated by homegrown local guys. They've all learned to manage medical marijuana co-ops ... but that's an editorial for another day. No, the pot plantations now are increasingly run by Mexican citizens with ties to increasingly violent Mexican drug cartels. They come to Northern California because the mountains are great places to run the illegal operation. There's abundant sun, water and hundreds of square miles of public land. It's easy to get far off the beaten track, miles from the nearest road, and squat on five acres where the chance of seeing another human being over the course of three to six months is next to nothing. The farmers are well-outfitted and well-armed. They have camps with most of life's necessities. They are given guns and told to guard the crop from "pot pirates." They also use the guns to kill deer to augment the food supply. Killing deer and defiling the land with human waste are only a small part of the problem. The bigger issue is that by squatting on public land, they endanger others who would use it -- for example, hunters, anglers, hikers, horseback riders and off-highway vehicle enthusiasts -- if they stray too far off the beaten path. Then there's the most important issue of letting Mexican drug cartels get a foothold here. An interesting story in Wednesday's newspaper from the Associated Press talked about how Mexican drug traffickers are branching out like never before. The story said the cartels have spread to 47 countries, including the United States. If their existence is not threatened here, they will stay here. Despite the best efforts of local, state and federal agents, the cartel operatives are getting bolder. Instead of just planting on public land in national forests, they are branching out into private land. The two busts last week near Forest Ranch -- plantations totaling about 6,000 and 2,500 plants -- were both on forested private land. The gardens were three to four acres in size and the landowner had no idea they were there, drug agents say. On Tuesday, another plantation was busted on private land north of Oroville near Oregon City. The landowner had no idea the plantation was there. It was discovered when alert residents called the Sheriff's Office to report that strangers were seen walking where they shouldn't have been with high-caliber rifles. Eradication teams arrested two Mexican citizens, confiscated a loaded 7mm rifle, found dead deer and removed 986 marijuana plants. The pot growers seem to be losing their fear at the same time we are losing drug agents and deputies to watch the hills. Shame on all of us if we allow that to happen. Let's give local pot eradicators our appreciative support.