Pubdate: Wed, 22 Jul 2020
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Address: 901 Mission St., San Francisco CA 94103
Copyright: 2020 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Bill Van Niekerken


As state law enforcement played whack-a-mole with illegal marijuana
fields, local communities protested the "invading army."

Driving through Humboldt County last winter, I heard radio ads for
help harvesting and selling cannabis crops, as well as for products
geared toward commercial cultivation. But less than 40 years ago, the
same area was one of the main battlefields of California's war on pot

By the late 1960s, the three counties of the Emerald Triangle had
developed a reputation for growing a high-quality product. Demand grew
rapidly, and prices skyrocketed, fueling greater production. In 1983,
after several unsuccessful attempts to cut down production, the state
started the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, or CAMP.

A search in the Chronicle archive shows decades-old photos of raids in
Humboldt and Mendocino counties, backlash from local communities and
more recent coverage on why CAMP is still operating today.

On July 21, 1983, Attorney General John Van de Kamp announced a
coordinated campaign using federal, state and local law enforcement
agencies to raid marijuana grows in more than a dozen California counties

"We're not here today to make great sweeping promises that all
marijuana planting will be eradicated in Northern California this
year," Van de Kamp said.

"But this is a serious effort," he added, explaining the federal Drug
Enforcement Administration would use spy planes to map forested,
remote regions to target the raids.

After the first 10-week effort, Van de Kamp reported 65,000 plants, or
about 215,000 pounds of marijuana with an estimated street-value of
more than $130 million, had been rounded up and destroyed.

Van de Kamp had to admit that there was no reliable way to measure how
much of the state's crop had been destroyed.

"They haven't even scratched the surface," one North Coast grower told
reporter Steve Wiegand. "There are gardens so far back that even the
growers have trouble getting to them."

But CAMP continued.

"Barry Inman, a 22-year-old reserve police officer with a crew cut,
took a machete to a marijuana garden yesterday, with the gusto of a
young man who enjoys his work," Chronicle correspondent Paul
Liberatore wrote in 1985 as he and staff photographer Vince Maggiora
accompanied a raid in Willits (Mendocino County).

"Being able to take something illegal from someone and getting the
dope off the street is a good feeling," Inman said, shifting an AR-15
semiautomatic rifle slung over his shoulder.

Inman was one of about 200 reserve officers who volunteered for "dope
duty," Liberatore wrote, making about $10 an hour and hoping it would
mean a springboard into full-time jobs in law enforcement.

The raiders knew they weren't welcome. "We're the bad guys," said
Richard Sinclair, a reserve officer from the Monterey area. "We're
seen as being the system, the police state. People yell things and
flip us off."

While that year's CAMP efforts had already netted 29,000 destroyed
plans and 16 arrests, local growers said it was primarily a "good show."

"They are wasting their money and time," one self-described "mom and
pop grower" told Liberatore, "There is dope all over these hills. a=80=A6

They will never get rid of it. They will never win."

The 1990 CAMP efforts made the "war on drugs" idea more literal: The
U.S. Army got involved. One Humboldt County operation involved 50
federal agents, 75 California National Guard troops, 60 soldiers and
seven helicopters from Fort Ord.

Locals considered it an escalation. About 200 residents protested at
the closely guarded gate to the wilderness camping area where CAMP was
based. "It's really scary, and the whole community is up in arms,"
said Jake Lustig, a teenage construction worker from Whale Gulch
(Mendocino County). Lustig said the heavily armed ground forces,
supported by helicopters and military vehicles, gave the impression of
an invading army.

Federal and state officials were pleased with the raid.

"I'm very proud of the way our forces have handled this and how the
military has operated," Cy Jamison, chief of the U.S. Bureau of Land
Management, said on the fifth day of the sweep.

CAMP raids continued, despite California legalizing medicinal and then
recreational use of cannabis. In 2000, San Mateo County and state
justice officials announced they had found more than 12,000 marijuana
plants growing near Crystal Springs Reservoir, not far from Huddart
Park, a record bust for the county.

But the efforts began shifting. After years of trying to contain local
growers, federal officials said they would now focus on the Mexican
drug traffickers who had expanded their marijuana-growing operations
in public California parkland.

"We don't even bother with medicinal grows," Michael Johnson, the
statewide commander of the CAMP task force, told The Chronicle in
2009. "What we're concerned about is the destruction of the habitat."
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