Reps Launch Effort To Deal With Illegal Cannabis Grows

California representatives are calling on the Attorney General to take action against illegal cannabis growers in the state.

On Tuesday, May 11, Representatives Mike Garcia (CA-25, Kevin McCarthy (CA-23), Jay Obernolte (CA-08), and Ken Calvert (CA-42) penned a letter on the matter to DOJ Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Rise in Criminal Activity

The letter states that there has been an alarming escalation in criminal activity across the state related to illegal cannabis cultivation operations.

According to the letter, the situation has become untenable for residents in the affected areas and dangerous for those living in the surrounding neighborhoods.

The letter states that there have been multiple homicides at illegal grow sites related to criminal syndicates engaging in turf wars in recent years.

In 2019, an El Dorado County Deputy Sheriff was killed while responding to a theft at an illegal cannabis grow site, and seven bodies were discovered at another site in Riverside County in 2020.

According to the letter, “Many of the criminals running and working these grow operations are illegal aliens who have entered the country illegally or have overstayed their visas.”

Authors of the letter write that many of the individuals arrested at illegal cannabis grows are often victims of human trafficking, forced to work at the sites.

The letter also highlights the large quantities of stolen water used at the illegal grow sites.

“In addition to menacing our constituents, these criminals are damaging our public lands and water resources,” states the letter. “On multiple occasions, illegal grows have been discovered stealing water from the communities they inhabit. It’s estimated that at the end of 2020, illegal marijuana grows were illegally consuming between 3 and 9.5 million gallons of water daily. Water is already a precious resource in California; we cannot allow these illegal operations to exacerbate the problem further.”

An Ongoing Issue

Stating that the problem is not going away, the letter says that it will only worsen unless there is direct intervention.

The letter states that illegal cannabis growing operations increased 300 percent in some areas during 2020, fueled by the knowledge that, even if arrested, operators will face no consequences.

The representatives write that they have heard from local, state, and federal law enforcement who are frustrated that their hard work is rendered pointless by prosecutors who will not charge offenders unless they commit additional, “more serious” crimes.

The letter states that when prosecutors wait for violent or other serious crimes to occur before charging criminals, their constituents pay the price.

“We request that you utilize whatever authority is available to you to address this growing crisis in our communities, including prosecuting these criminals to the fullest extent allowable under the law to cut off the escalating fear and violence in our districts,” states the letter. “Decisive action is needed now. Every day that these criminals continue to operate with impunity hurts our constituents and California as a whole.”