FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Great Marijuana Boom

by BRUCE McEWEN

Everyone in a position to know says this is another banner year for the marijuana cultivation business, Mendocino County franchise.  Mendocino county is about three hours drive north of San Francisco.

Sheriff Allman says simply, “It’s everywhere.”

And it’s drawing people from everywhere.

Last year law enforcement grabbed young people from Italy, Bulgaria, Israel, China, Spain, Russia, and, of course, Mexico who had come to Mendocino County to grow weed. The foreign nationals brought an international flavor to an industry begun forty-five years ago out of old fashioned American ingenuity, back-to-the-land hippie botanists who went on to produce a product of such quality it has been in great demand ever since.

After last season’s polyglot busts, Sheriff Allman joked about “setting up a United Nations office” at his Ukiah headquarters.

With ever more people getting into the marijuana business, the pot market has become glutted. Prices are down. But two thousand dollars a pound still looks good to people fighting the economic downturn with outdoor agriculture. The “Green Rush” is on, and it’s been building for a decade now.

Tens of thousands of plants have already been seized this year and outdoor pot season has just started.

Indoor pot season, like pig hunting, is year-round. A deputy joked recently that “a lot of people have their kids sleeping on their living room floors because their bedrooms have been converted to indoor grows.”

All this dope, and the national perception that Mendocino County is Marijuana Country, has brought The Drug Enforcement Agency to Mendocino County in force. They’re everywhere, under cover and above the covers, searching and sniffing about, looking to bust growers and drug dealers. And even if the feds aren’t everywhere they like the dopers to think they are.

Mendocino County seems to have supplanted Humboldt  county, just to its north, as the fed’s primary target.

Black is the color of the DEA. They wear black jump suits, drive black SUVs, and fly black helicopters. They had a whole squadron of little black choppers at the Ukiah airport a few weeks ago to train law enforcement personnel from all over in spotting and eradicating marijuana crops. The DEA also uses military choppers, and they had a big Blackhawk apparently working as flagship with the smaller choppers brought in for the training exercises.

Some of the little black choppers are still around, as is a big CH 46, the one with the twin rotors and a tailgate that you can drive a Hummer into. It seems to be the mothership. The CH 46 left the Ukiah airport early Friday morning, lumbering into the air like a mammoth cruise ship pulling out into San Francisco Bay from Pier 46. The pilot inflected the rotor blades, eased into the throttle and the big warship floated up and south over the runway, gathering speed and altitude, the crew chief standing at military parade rest on the open deck of its vast tailgate. It banked around over Highway 101 and headed north for the big grows, the innumerable marijuana plantations on federal land east of Willits, north of Covelo, the true wilds of the Emerald Triangle.

The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and US Forest Service are hiring combat veterans just back from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan for less lethal duty in the Mendocino marijuana wars. There’s not a lot of jobs out there for young people just back from Mesopotamia, but these guys tend to have plenty of experience in searching out the poppy crops of Afghanistan.

Chasing pot farmers in outback Mendocino County is light duty after the Taliban.

Of course, all grows are illegal to the DEA, regard­less of state or local statutes. The DEA’s web site says, “Marijuana smoked is not medicine and it is not safe. DEA targets criminals engaged in cultivation and traf­ficking of marijuana, including the 12 states that have decriminalized marijuana use.”

The DEA trains its agents at Quantico, a Marine Corps base in Virginia. The CIA and FBI also train their officers there. The physical training for DEA agents is done under the supervision of Marine drill instructors, and the web page boasts that it’s pretty intense.

Last week I saw a guy on the local MTA bus wearing a Marine Corps utility cover — which is what the Marines call a hat. He was dressed like a vagabond and smelled faintly of stale beer. But the women on the bus seemed quite taken with his clear eyes and fit physique. Vags don’t work out much except for their elbows, and this suspiciously fit one was overheard saying he’d just come from Virginia. Maybe he was riding the MTA on recon, scoping out the area, maybe even making some useful contacts.

Oh, yeah, and paranoia is another industry byproduct. Especially at this time of year.

I call these guys RAMBOs, from an urban myth that the Regular Army and the Marines had a program where they used biological engineering and steroids to develop optimal troopers. Supposedly, they put computer chips in the brains of qualified vets, gave them massive doses of steroids and made remote-control supermen out of them with implants that would shoot meth into their bloodstream on demand.

The tinfoil hat people thought it was true.

Besides the DEA’s Rambos, there’s the National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, the Mendocino County Major Crimes Task Force, and the California Marijuana Eradication Task Force.

Their primary task?

Eradication of devil weed and the devils who grow it.

Especially in the Mendocino National Forest.

Growers, organized as armed syndicates — and they’re not all Mexicans as the local rightwing claims — have had it all their way in America’s least visited national forest for a decade now, and here comes the counter-attack.

Pot growers and their legions of strictly legal support staffs with their truck loads of irrigation hose, fertilizers, timers, netting, and everything else a remote pot enter­prise might need, depart daily from Mendocino County’s thriving garden supply businesses, head off to the hills. Many of these supply trucks drive east to Covelo and points north to irrigate marijuana out of the Middle Fork Eel River, the only reliable source of water in the summer time in the Mendocino National Forest.

Supervisor John Pinches declared last week, “We’ve lost our national forest. Forget all these other issues, let’s take back our forest. It’s out of hand. There’s got to be a plan to take back the forest.”

To which a reader responded, “Hey, Pinches. In case you haven’t noticed, the criminal timber syndicates, together with their government co-conspirators, destroyed ‘our national forest’ a long time ago.”

There are dark rumors about Tom Contreras, the Forest Service man in charge of the National Forest.

“Contreras has never done anything about the big grows out there because the Mexican gangs have gotten to him. He’s Hispanic, a brother.” Or, “The cartels know where Contreras lives. They’ve threatened him and his family.”

That kind of thing. Rumor. Guilt by ethnicity.

A man who regularly hikes the Mendocino National Forest recommends road blocks in the summer months.

“Roadblocks at three key places would seriously disrupt grower supply lines,” he says. “All of them lead to the water of the Middle Fork Eel where the water is out there in the summer.”

This guy is also suspicious of the Forest Service.

“They aren’t doing much of anything to keep the growers out, that’s for sure. And these growers are like sherpas; young guys straight from Mexico. They can hike for miles with big loads. Most of the cops can hike maybe one mile with light loads — their lunches. The supervisors are having their August meeting in Covelo. So what? People will vent and that’ll be the end of it. Do you know anyone who pays any attention to the supervisors?”

It takes fit young men to chase other fit young men, and if you’re taking bets I’ll bet on the fit federal young men in black jump suits and their little black choppers.

BRUCE McEWEN is court reporter for the great Boonville-based Anderson Valley Advertiser, where this report appears.

 

 

 

WORDS THAT STICK

?

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail