Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

California pot growers shifting crop to private farmlands

Wednesday, December 7, 2011 |

AP Photo/Fresno County Sheriff's Office
In this image provided by the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, an aerial view of a marijuana field is seen July 5, 2011 near Sanger, California. Fresno County Sheriff's deputies and federal agents found as many as 50,000 marijuana plants, worth an estimated $400 million, growing in a sophisticated operation protected by a six foot barbed wire fence. About 50 workers were taken into custody. The farm was located less than a mile from an elementary school.(The Sanger Herald)


 Michael Doyle | McClatchy Newspapers
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/12/07/132460/california-pot-growers-shifting.html

California's commercial pot growers are moving plots from national forests to Central Valley farmland, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims told senators Wednesday.

Citing a "conspicuous shift" in drug cultivation tactics, Mims added that growers also are increasingly using the "guise" of medical marijuana in an effort to protect their work that, arrest records show, frequently relies on illegal immigrants.

"Rather than growing marijuana in the relative secrecy and anonymity afforded by remote public lands, many moved illicit operations onto private agricultural lands," Mims advised the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, which held a hearing Wednesday on marijuana cultivation on public lands.

Fresno County has seen a drop in marijuana plots on public lands. In 2009, for instance, law enforcement investigators identified 81 marijuana-growing sites on public lands in Fresno County. In 2010, the number fell to 19. This year, only eight have been found.

While Mims called these reductions "appreciable measures of success," she warned of the flip side, which includes growing operations on Valley farmland. Last year, she told senators, 36 multi-acre cultivation sites were found on conventional farmland in Fresno County.

This year, one Fresno County farmland site devoted to marijuana was said by officials to span 57 acres.

"(The) Central Valley in particular has become a hot spot for marijuana cultivation because of the conditions there, including abundant sunlight, irrigation and fertilizer," declared Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the narcotics control caucus.

More often than not, illegal immigrants supply the marijuana labor force, officials said.

In July, for instance, the Forest Service and other agencies arrested 159 individuals as part of what officials called Operation Full Court Press. The operation included sweeps through Mendocino, Glenn, Colusa, Lake, Trinity and Tehama counties in Northern California.

Roughly 95 percent of those arrested were illegal immigrants, the U.S. Forest Service's law enforcement director, David Ferrell, told senators. More broadly, Ferrell reported that illegal immigrants were caught tending 1,437 of the 2,334 marijuana sites seized on Forest Service land in California between 2005 and 2010.

"These are Mexican nationals who are running these operations," Feinstein said. "They are armed and dangerous, and we ought to go after them."

During the summer's Operation Full Court Press, in addition to 632,058 marijuana plants, officers reported seizing 38 weapons, including some assault rifles. A similar multi-agency operation last year, called Trident, resulted in 33 weapons and 432,271 marijuana plants being seized in Fresno, Tulare and Madera counties.

All told, Obama administration drug czar R. Gil Kerlikowske testified, 7.4 million marijuana plants were eradicated in California last year, primarily from outdoor growing sites.

"Our public lands have been taken away from us, and that's wrong," said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, Calif.

Feinstein joined Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, in pressing the case that California's allowance for medical marijuana has given Mexican-run drug trafficking gangs cover for their illegal operations.

"The professed medical premise for cultivating this marijuana is predominantly a ruse," Mims agreed. "Marijuana grown in these quantities is largely intended for distribution and sales, often to out-of-state destinations."

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18 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

Prohibition has never and will never work

Anonymous said...

has there been any documentation of mexican cartel involvement in cali large scale grow ops? its been suggested a million times but ive never actually seen anything to support it. as far as ive seen, even with very large skill 100$million + a year ops, its always been american entrepreneurs, cartel involvement is just propoganda to get the public hyped

Anonymous said...

Even with alcohol now officially recognized as the most dangerous destructive and deadly drug of all the drugs, do not expect the misfits and morons who desire a draconian police state to change their evil ways.

They hate our freedom.

Feinstein and her ilk are government control freaks.

Anonymous said...

WTF let them grow it and smoke it if they want to. Better than to have it imported by drug cartels. Oh! Maybe there's a reason US wants to keep 'importing' it??

Anonymous said...

For Anonymous 7:28 PM it's not the Mexican Cartels that control the pot farms in the San Joaquin Valley, they're refugees that were shipped in after the US lost the Vietnam war. This is one of the families involved, and no he is not Mexican or Hispanic or Latino, this guy is from Laos...of course because he "collaborated" he's off the hook: http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/AP-Enterprise-Pot-growers-move-to-Calif-farms-2222049.php#photo-1677299

Anonymous said...

Acording to an article from the Fresno Bee Originally published 2011-07-29 it's a domestic cartel run by Asians.

Pot plantation raided:

...The pot-growing operation on California Avenue east of McCall Avenue was elaborate, with observation towers and living quarters for workers, plants in various states of growth lined in neatly cultivated rows, and a six-foot cyclone fence topped with barbed wire and covered in plastic sheeting to prevent passers-by from looking inside.

But the pot farm had not escaped the notice of residents or law officers. During the early-morning raid, a passing driver stopped to tell Sanger Police Chief Tom Klose that the farm had been there a long time; the chief reassured him that it was not a secret to police, either.

Sheriff Margaret Mims, who described the farm as part of "a domestic drug-trafficking cartel," said it wasn't the first time deputies had conducted a pot bust at the farm. Mims said deputies were aware it was operating again.

Sheriff's deputies assisted in November 2010 when agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raided the field, Lt. Rick Ko said. "It had to do with smuggling out of state," Ko said. But he said he could provide no further details because the federal investigation is still ongoing.

All the marijuana plants were pulled off the property last year, but sheriff's officials were not surprised to see a new crop this year, Ko said. "It's a huge problem in Fresno County and in the whole state of California," he said.

Deputies worked 12 hours in 90-plus degree heat Thursday to rip out marijuana plants. Five were treated for heat-related illness and one was hospitalized but is recovering, Ko said. "We'll finish Friday," he said.

Besides sheriff's deputies, DEA agents and U.S. marshals took part in the raid, which began at sunrise as officers surrounded the field and ordered the workers to surrender. Mims said there was no resistance from those who were taken into custody. They were being interviewed to determine what charges they might face.

Just who was in charge of the operation is unclear. Fresno County tax assessor's records list Goon Pattanumotana of Fresno as the owner of the 54-acre parcel, but Pattanumotana said he has leased out the property to several farmers and has no direct oversight of what is grown there. "I've kind of lost track of what's going on," he said.

Ko said property owners should be responsible for knowing if something illegal is happening on their property. But Sonia De La Rosa, spokeswoman for the Fresno County District Attorney's Office, said responsibility can depend on whether a property owner knew about and took part in illegal activities.

Records show Pattanumotana bought the parcel in 2005 for $1,900,000. It was assessed in 2010 at a value of $2,011,516.

Pattanumotana, a real estate broker and adjunct instructor of economics at Willow International Center, said he bought the land as an investment and rents out parcels to Asian farmers who grow vegetables. He said he made a profit on property that he sold before the real estate crash and invested in the Sanger land for tax purposes. Pattanumotana said he wants to hold onto the parcel until the market comes back. In the meantime, he leases out the land in order to pay about $22,000 a year in property tax. The problem, he said, is that some of his lessees have turned around and leased land to others.

"I would like to evict them, but they have threatened to sue," he said. "It's very confusing."

Staff writer Paula Lloyd contributed to this report. The reporter may be reached at jguy@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6339.

Anonymous said...

Just imagine what a destructory force legalization would be on the police force in this country! Talking about a case of sudden overstaffing!

Anonymous said...

Do away with prohibition of guns, drugs, alcohol, tobacco. So we can get on with our lives.

Anonymous said...

California will legalize pot in 2012, mark my words. My generation grew up around pot (high school grad in 2004, college 2008. Its like drinking a cup of coffee. All those stupid just say no ads by dare cops lol....who cares about all the benefits, just say no...wtf how about yes sir to pot in cali..dont like it, then move from cali, majority supports it. Wait till all the old people start to DIE...thats when it will be legalized. Fuck the feds, this is our state!

Anonymous said...

Nobody wants that outdoor shwag!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Nobody wants that outdoor shwag!
December 8, 2011 1:11 PM

nobody wants your indoh factory chemical farm fake assed shit ..outdoor under the sun in the good earth the natural way

Anonymous said...

Nobody wants that green shit. Get me some embalming fluid and watch me get stupid like I post in the forum.

Anonymous said...

What a waste of time by the feds. The Mexicans are fucking up the environment on public lands, and now that they have moved to private lands THEY STILL BITCH. Jesus! It's weed for god sakes!! All the while, how many will get fucked up watching the Super Bowl drinking beer and no one says shit. This BS about them protecting us is horse shit. LEAVE US THE HELL ALONE!!!! I don't even smoke, drink, nada- but I'm not stupid enough to think that prohabition has worked for one second!!! The drug that is fucking up the nation is meth. Period. Weed is not a gateway drug! How can it if it's a schedule one, and meth a schedule two? Kids try weed and wonder what the big deal was. So they try the harder stuff thinking that if they lied about the effects of pot, they probably lied about the effects of crystal. NOT. Look at the vacancies in jail and the courts to go after coke, heroin, and meth!!! And fuck that, these people (most) need help, not jail (where they come out worse than before they went in). What a backwards fucked up nation we live in with the crazy right wing and the shit nuts left making this country a giant cluster fuck. Let people do what they fucking want, and grow up already!

Siskiyou_Kid said...

In the Pacific Northwest we grow on commercial farms and yield from 5-10 lbs. per plant, but we have to split up the gardens, so that there aren't more than 100 plants in any one location, or the feds raid our gardens.

The cartels, primarily using luncheros from Michoacan, are still in the high elevation National Forest locales.

POKENHOLES said...

Siskiyou_Kid said...

In the Pacific Northwest we grow on commercial farms and yield from 5-10 lbs. per plant, but we have to split up the gardens, so that there aren't more than 100 plants in any one location, or the feds raid our gardens.

The cartels, primarily using luncheros from Michoacan, are still in the high elevation National Forest locales.
December 8, 2011 9:53 PM


COME ON GET REAL..5 TO 10 LBS PER PLANT ...NO FUCKN WAY ..IVE' SEEN 16 FOOT PLANTS THAT MEBBE ,,,MEBBE ..YEILDED THREE POUNDS

Anonymous said...

@9:53
dw up those holes,
you are both correct

Siskiyou_Kid said...

@7:57 WE had a fantastic Fall in the Northwest, with no rain throughout October. The late strains, like Pineapple, Blue Dream, and Sour Diesel didn't have any mold problems and yielded 10-12 pounds.

It's not all about height, it's about girth and the density of the buds. We give our plants 12' of space, stake them with 10' t-posts and vineyard netting every 3', and top the t-posts with 2" pvc for the late strains that get tall. Yeah, they get to 16'.

When you put $1k worth of organic nutrients and 5 yards of earth worm casting, bat guano, and humus for EACH plant, and they get 12 hours of full sun on a commercial farm, with fertilizer injectors and drip irrigation, it's really hard NOT to get at least 5 lbs. a plant.

Anonymous said...

no prohibition does work its the glorification by the media that fail

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