$ 1.5 million in funds to tackle ‘worst of the worst’ illicit cannabis cultivation in the Emerald Triangle – Times-Standard


State Senator Mike McGuire recently unveiled a $ 1.5 million fundraising strategy to tackle violent crime and environmental degradation associated with illicit cannabis cultivation sites in the Emerald Triangle. Grant funds allocated by the state will be used to support and strengthen law enforcement in the remote counties of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity.

At a press briefing Wednesday morning, McGuire said the tri-county law enforcement campaign was aimed at shutting down the “worst of the worst” illegal cannabis cultivation operations in the region.

“Let me be perfectly clear on what this funding will do and what this funding will not do. … These significant state investments will support the county’s efforts to strengthen law enforcement and tackle large unauthorized cannabis cultivation operations, ”he said. “… At no time will the traditional farmers and small family farmers who are currently working through the authorization process, or those already authorized, be at the center of this campaign. No way, no how. This initiative aims to help support traditional farmers who are doing and have done the right thing. “

McGuire (Screenshot)

Over the next 12 months, the app will focus on unauthorized cannabis sites where there are illegal water diversions, operations threatening endangered fish species, environmental degradation or the presence of organized crime, McGuire said.

“These funds will help cover the costs of law enforcement personnel associated with this critical initiative. Each sheriff’s office is to monitor the results of the campaign, within their individual county and report to the Legislature and the Legislative Budget staff team on the impact of the operation and the results of the campaign. operation, ”he said. “The breakdown of funding by county will be as follows: $ 600,000 will be invested in Mendocino County, $ 600,000 will be invested in Humboldt County, $ 300,000 will be invested in Trinity County and each of the three counties will work together in a coordinated eradication campaign. “

Over the past 50 years, Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal has said illegal cannabis operations have grown from small crops in the hills to mega-cultures run by “drug cartels and trafficking organizations.” drugs ”.

“At one point we had 10,000 illegal farms here in Humboldt County. We currently have around 1,000 licensed, ”he said. “Although illegal farms have declined over the years, what we have seen is that organized crime has taken hold everywhere. It used to be trespassing on public land, now they buy private land all over the county and they don’t care about our county. They care about one thing and that is to make money.

Honsal (Screenshot)

Honsal said these illegal cultivators contributed to “unprecedented killings” and gun violence in the county. He said violent crime had increased 600% since 2019.

“A lot of the cases involve marijuana and it continues to be a problem across the northern state that the violence associated with illegal marijuana trafficking is wreaking havoc in our community,” he said. “Comparing 2019 to this year, again homicides have increased by 600%. “

Although data is unknown for 2021, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office 2020 Annual Report says the sheriff’s office responded to 31 homicides in 2020, up from 30 in 2019.

Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall said his county has experienced unprecedented violence and environmental destruction in recent years with “worst of worst”.

“We have people who came up with a two year plan to make as much money as they could and that plan didn’t include taking care of the environment, of taking care of the people around them. or to monitor sensitive species, ”he said. nearest neighbor. “

Kendall said the two biggest challenges in the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office are finding staff and funding.

“This initiative will help us to move forward, to work together and to deal with the issues affecting our three counties at the same time,” he said. “We get together quite routinely and all of our issues intersect, so we have to work together.”

In 2020, Trinity County Sheriff Tim Saxxon said his office had conducted 60 eradication operations involving illegal sites and eradicated nearly 387,000 plants.

“We seized or destroyed 40,300 pounds of processed cannabis, arrested 156 people, seized 55 firearms and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. Honestly, it has barely scratched the surface, ”he said. “We are seeing irreparable damage to our headwaters and streams from water diversions just to feed these illegal marijuana crops. This is an unacceptable degradation of our natural environment.

The three sheriffs underscored their commitment to supporting the legal cannabis market and reiterated that this enforcement initiative would be directed to “the biggest, worst and ugliest grow sites.”

“Our goal is simple but essential: to keep our community safe, to protect our environment and our watersheds,” said McGuire. “It will be a collaborative effort. “

Isabella Vanderheiden can be reached at 707-441-0504.

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