Thursday, October 13, 2005

USATODAY.com - Drug agents can't keep up with pot growers

USATODAY.com - Drug agents can't keep up with pot growers: "NORTHERN MENDOCINO COUNTY, Calif. - In the waning days of a record season, a helicopter buzzes treetops here in a remote corner of the 'Emerald Triangle,' redwood country notorious as the USA's premier producer of marijuana.

State narcotics officers from CAMP — Campaign Against Marijuana Planting — are searching for "gardens" to eradicate and find six on a warm, cloudless day.

They strap onto a 150-foot cable dangling from the chopper, drop into the pot patches, hack down the plants and bundle them for the chopper to haul back to a landing zone.

CAMP's critics equate the program with Prohibition in the 1930s.

"Look at the amount of economic value we're destroying," says Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "This could be legally taxed and regulated and we could all be making money off it. We never saw this lawlessness until there were drug laws and CAMP." NORML estimates that Californians' pot consumption could yield at least $250 million a year in sales taxes.

Gieringer also says that, despite the government's assertion, there is no evidence that Mexican cartels are involved in the cultivation.

Roger Rodoni is a cattle rancher and registered Republican who has represented a conservative district in Humboldt County — conservative by local standards, anyway — on the board of supervisors since 1997. He calls CAMP "an exercise in futility."

"It's a vast expenditure of public funds that for all practical purposes does no good," Rodoni, 65, says. Demand for marijuana keeps growing, and CAMP has done little to stem the supply, he says. As evidence he points to a drop in the price of "the quality stuff'" from $6,000 a pound a few years ago to $3,000 today." (more)