Feud in forests: Confronting illegal cannabis growers in California’s countryside - Sovereign Health Group
Articles / Blog
04-13-17 Category: Marijuana, Treatment

Braving the early morning chill, a group of men in camouflage attire bearing logos of government agencies cautiously tiptoes through the rugged topography of remote stretches of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Plumas County. Traversing through the undulating landscape covered by lush evergreen pine forests, striving not to snap twigs or shake a pile of withered leaves lest they should make a crackling sound, signals that they are on an important mission.

Seven veterans from the U.S. Forest Service, National Guard, California Department of Fish & Wildlife and Plumas County Sheriff’s Office — with blackened faces and assault rifles ready to handle any defensive situation — scan the surroundings for signs of movement. An 11-year-old Belgian Shepherd dog and its ever-vigilant K9 handler lead the way through the vast expanse of verdant wilderness. Dr. Mourad Gabriel, a member of the group and enthusiastic wildlife ecologist who is also the executive director of the nonprofit Integral Ecology Research Center (IERC), is accompanying the law enforcement group on this critical assignment – “Busting clandestine marijuana plantations grown illegally by Mexican drug cartels in these areas.” As they approach the Palmetto Creek, their radio transmitter devices begin to crackle with murmurs, and in the distance they spot what they’ve been looking for, on a steep slope above the narrow waterway, a dense garden teeming with exuberant cannabis crops emerges in plain sight.

Staying on guard for the presence of armed growers, the beady-eyed group calculates each step, as they make their way into the illegal marijuana grow area. Once assured that nobody’s around, Gabriel at once gets to work. Bright green cannabis plants at all stages of growth abound the area in large numbers. He sees that the large-scale illegal plantation stretches across dozens of acres of public land owing to lack of government oversight in these remote parts. As an ecologist and a wildlife enthusiast, he believes such trespass grows could have an insidious and devastating effect on the nearby ecosystems and their inhabitants. While he pulls on a pair of blue nitrile gloves to gather some samples for testing in the laboratory, the other members of the group begin razing down the plants and clearing the garden with machetes and pruners.

In addition to harmful effects of marijuana abuse, Gabriel is deeply concerned about the imminent environmental pollution caused by the insecticides used by the growers, which contaminate the soil several hundred meters downhill from the grow areas. Also, ecologists report that the deadly toxins could easily reach the water supply of cities and towns located far beyond the Palmetto Creek. Though in the past, a law enforcement team had uprooted thousands of plants in illegal grow sites, the cartels are simply not the ones who would give up so easily. Such illegal plantations certainly don’t cater to the legal recreational industry or medical dispensaries. Rather, drug cartels find the allure of marijuana black market impossible to resist.

Studies show that most growers arrested during raids are young undocumented immigrants from the state of Michoacán, and are in one way or the other affiliated to a Mexican drug cartel. The cartels, nowadays find it convenient and more profitable to transport marijuana from one U.S. state to the other, instead of engaging in the usual cross-border trafficking business. These growers are often masters in furtive agriculture and are built to survive in tough conditions. Earning about $150 per day for two to four months, they make more than they would otherwise at a farm or winery.

Also, another common practice rampant among growers is that they leave their irrigation systems open throughout the year, even in the absence of any cultivation activity. Gabriel estimates that 1.1 million illegal cannabis plants destroyed in California in 2016 could have consumed around 1.3 billion gallons of water, which might roughly equal the annual water consumption of 10,000 households in California.

Cannabis addiction a reality across California

While California is embracing the snowballing legal cannabis market, there is a concurrent sharp rise in illicit cultivation of the drug, most of it on the state’s remote expanses of public land including national forests and even national parks. Authorities say that more than tens of thousands of marijuana plants are grown in illegal large-scale grow site scattered across dozens of acres of federal land, with California leading the nation in the number of such grow areas.

In the wake of the growing popularity of the pro-cannabis campaigns that insist on decriminalization of the drug, many fear that harmful and addictive nature of cannabis will get sidelined. Studies suggest that it is almost impossible to grow up in the U.S. and not be exposed to marijuana. According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), from 2013-2015, 70 percent of 11th graders reported it was fairly easy or very easy to get marijuana in the state. Further, in 2016, 9.5 percent of California adults aged 18 to 64 used pot or marijuana hash oil at least one day.

The steady spike in marijuana addiction rates across California is attributed to the growing ease of availability, perceived harmlessness and the social popularity of the drug across all sections of society. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says that those who use marijuana during adolescence are more likely to use other harder drugs such as cocaine or heroin later in adulthood. Unfortunately, teens and high-school students form a high-risk group, who are vulnerable to weed addiction in a bid to get high.

Journey to recovery

Research shows that the psychoactive properties of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a neurotoxin present in marijuana, lead to abuse and addiction. Besides, marijuana modifies the brain’s reward system by inducing a dopamine rush, which automatically tweaks the brain for a heightened response to other drugs.

Sovereign Health understands the plight of someone who is unable to discontinue the use of harmful substances such as cannabis despite the negative impact on his or her life. Our customized marijuana addiction treatment programs are tailored to individual needs in order to treat the person holistically. Sovereign Health of San Clemente’s pain program is designed to help foster marijuana addiction recovery by facilitating treatment for marijuana addiction for individuals whose pain has led to an addiction to dangerous drugs.

If you or your loved one is battling addiction to marijuana, get in touch with Sovereign Health to gain access to the latest and innovative residential treatment programs at our state-of-the-art marijuana rehab centers in California or marijuana rehab centers spread across the U.S. Our residential treatment facilities across the U.S. are well known for their marijuana detox programs. Whether you are looking for addiction help or addiction treatment centers in California or at a place closer home, call at our 24/7 helpline number (866) 819-0427 or chat online to know about the most effective rehab programs at our reliable rehabilitation centers.

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