In the Golden State, dangerous drug cartels are growing pot on public lands—putting wildlife, water supplies, and outdoor enthusiasts at grave risk.
03.28.17…A combination of ideal growing weather and proximity to tens of millions of potential customers has always made northern California a great place to grow dope. California was the first to permit medical marijuana, in 1996, and this past November, residents voted “yes” on Prop 64, making California the fifth state to legalize recreational pot. Almost two-thirds of the country’s total legal harvest comes from the Golden State. The crop brought in $2.8 billion in 2015, putting it somewhere between lettuce and grapes, and some estimates project the state’s “green gold rush” could become a $6.5 billion market by 2020.
Even as California embraces the booming legal marijuana market, though, it is also seeing an explosion in illegal cultivation, much of it on the state’s vast and remote stretches of public land. National forests and even national parks have seen a surge in large-scale illegal “trespass grows,” some with tens of thousands of plants spread across dozens of acres. As much as 80 percent of illegal pot eradicated in California is grown on federal lands, and that’s just the fraction that authorities find….