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Friday, January 4, 2013

Feds Admit There's No Proof Mexican Drug Cartels Link to California Marijuana Grows

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2013 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge Not seen in Garberville - REASON.COM
  • Not seen in Garberville

A while back, a medical cannabis grower told us this story: Needing help on his pot farm, a young entrepreneur drove down Cesar Chavez Avenue, convinced some day laborers to become season-long laborers, and headed north. All went well until the helicopters overhead turned into boots on the ground, and the garden was raided.

All hands, including those here illegally, split before they were arrested. One of the agents found something on the ground. It was a tortilla wrapper. This could only mean one thing: Mexicans. And that could only mean one other thing.

Thus was born the legend of the Mexican drug cartels growing marijuana in Northern California's national forests.


a persistent tale, especially considering the lack of cartel members

arrested and brought to justice in the United States. And this after at

least six years of ominous law enforcement warnings about the gangs of

brown people with guns. Recently, a federal Drug War official recently

admitted what some growers and activists have been saying for years: if

it really is the Mexican drug cartels operating in the forests, there is scant evidence.

The official in question is Tommy Lanier, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy's National Marijuana Initiative. Buried in a Los Angeles Times story that ran over the holidays are Lanier's doubts about the reality of Sinaloas, Zetas, and other narcotrafficos in Mendocino and Humboldt counties.

"Based on our intelligence, which includes thousands of cellphone numbers and wiretaps, we haven't been able to connect anyone to a major cartel," he said.

Lanier said authorities have long mislabeled marijuana grown on public land as "cartel grows" because Mexican nationals are arrested in the majority of cases, and the narrative of fighting drug cartels helps them secure federal funding.
As California NORML Director Dale Gieringer pointed out on Thursday, cops from the feds on down to local sheriff's deputies have been more than willing to raise the alarm about cartel activity -- evidence or no evidence.

"Finally, the Drug Czar's office has acknowledged that the "cartel" narrative is a myth devised by law enforcement to help secure federal funding," Gieringer said in a release Thursday.

Not to say there aren't criminals at work growing marijuana in California. But these, the Times reported, are "independent groups of Mexican nationals, often using undocumented fieldworkers from their home groups." Hear them now: The problem is still brown people, but slightly less terrifying brown people.

We hate to say it, but we've long suspected this ourselves -- and we told you so. A few years back, when we reported that the Obama Administration had continued, and in some cases stepped up, prosecution and persecution of California's legal medical-cannabis providers, we asked both the DEA and the Justice Department to tell us about all the cartel members they'd arrested and prosecuted. It was a short conversation, because there was nothing to share.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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