Ah, but what you do when you’re stoned on Weed, that’s what gets you incarcerated!
New prison data blows up narrative that low-level drug offenders are filling up US prisons: experts
Violent crime, not drug crime, is driving state prison populations…
Newly revealed state inmate population statistics contradict the popular argument from criminal justice reform advocates that prisons are largely filled with nonviolent drug offenders, some experts said.
Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) show only 12.6% of state prisoners are behind bars for drug-related crimes and only 3.2% are locked up on possession charges – while five times as many people are in state prisons for violent crimes rather than drug charges.
“If you listen to people on the left, you’d think that everyone who has a joint in their pocket is getting sent to prison for 20 years, which just is not the case,” Zack Smith, a legal fellow in the Heritage Foundation’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.
Prominent Democrats and some Republicans across the country have pushed to decriminalize drugs by arguing, in part, that harsh drug laws have led to a prison-population boom.
In a 2019 tweet, Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested on Twitter that the “reality” of the U.S. prison system is “nonviolent” people “stopped w/ a dime bag.”
President Joe Biden has issued thousands of pardons for marijuana crimes while insisting that “no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana; no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either.”
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, said in 2018 that “more people [are] locked up for low-level offenses on marijuana than for all violent crimes in this country.”
Smith and Keith Humphreys, an American psychologist and Esther Ting Memorial professor at Stanford University, told Fox News Digital that those positions simply aren’t backed up by the data.
“It’s been a longtime talking point, particularly around cannabis legalization, to say our prisons are full of pot smokers and nonviolent drug offenders,” Humphreys told Fox News Digital. “It’s just something that has never been true, certainly for cannabis. You can get a night in a jail still for cannabis but going to prison is pretty much impossible anymore, not that it ever was possible.”
Humphreys said that even at the height of the crack cocaine explosion in the 1980s, only about one in five state prisoners were incarcerated for a drug charge of some form.
Humphreys explained that “violent crime is driving” prison populations in the United States as evidenced by the data showing 62.4% of state prisoners are serving sentences for violent crimes. The other 40% includes people who previously committed violent crimes or who pleaded down from a violent offense to a lesser offense, he said.
Smith agreed, saying people with simple possession charges – especially first-time offenders – “probably pled down” to those charges from a more serious charge.
“For instance, a lot of times if someone is potentially facing possession with intent to distribute charges, which carry much higher penalties … the prosecutor might plead down to simple possession charges in that case,” Smith said. “So, most of the time, I would suspect that’s what’s going on.”
Smith also echoed the conclusion that prison populations are driven by violent crime and not “low-level drug offenders” not just in recent years but historically.
“Between 1960 and 1990, the rate of violent crime in the United States surged by over 35%,” Smith told Fox News Digital. “It’s the biggest increase in our country’s history, and so it’s that increase in violent crime that was the increase in incarceration and the increasing of incarceration rates. It’s not minor drug offenses or really drug offenses, period.”
Smith said there were 43 million drug arrests in the United States between 1980 and 2012, which “sounds like a lot” until you consider that there were 445 million total arrests during that same time frame, which he said shows that “drug arrests accounted for less than 10% of all arrests over that roughly 32-year period” and runs contrary to the reform narrative.
“Even if you go all the way back to 1997, the heart of the tough-on-crime era, if you will, only 1% of all prisoners were in prison for a first- or second-time nonviolent drug offense, and only 4% of state prisoners in 1997 were considered to be drug kingpins,” said Smith, who is authoring an upcoming book titled “Rogue Prosecutors” about the progressive prosecutors across the country implementing what they call criminal justice reform.
Liberal mega-donor George Soros, who has spent billions pushing for criminal justice reform and backing the progressive prosecutors that Smith’s book discusses, has often advocated for an end to “mass incarceration” through his Open Society Foundations, which contends that “minor crimes” have “filled U.S. jails and prisons to overflowing.”
Fox News Digital reached out to Open Society Foundations for comment on the latest BJS statistics – a spokesperson for the group responded only with a disparaging comment about Fox News.
Humphreys also took issue with the argument from many activists who claim that violence is driven by the fact that drugs are illegal and violent crime would go down if drugs were legalized.
“The problem with that reasoning is that the No. 1 drug involved in violence in the United States by a big margin is alcohol, which is, of course, legal,” Humphreys said. “So, it doesn’t follow at all – from this data – that this just proves their point all along. No, it doesn’t really.”
Hannah E. Meyers, a fellow and director of policing and public safety at the Manhattan Institute, responded to the latest BJS statistics by pointing out the connection between drugs and violence that is often ignored by the political left.
“Those who decry how the U.S. justice system treats drug offenders also ignore the disturbingly tight relationship between drug offending and other, often violent, offending,” Meyers told Fox News Digital. “An earlier BJS survey found that 22.4% of drug offenders in state prison were violent recidivists and 26.4% had three to five prior sentences. Over 13% of sentenced drug offenders had six to 10 prior sentences.”
Meyers also pointed to a BJS survey that found that 38.4% of state drug possession offenders were rearrested within a year of release; by year 5, that percentage grew to a 73% rearrest rate.
Of all state drug offenders, 28% of those released in 2012 were rearrested for a violent offense within five years; released drug offenders were more likely to be arrested again within five years for a violent offense than were those released for homicide or rape.
“Therefore, the new BJS data only adds to a longstanding picture: it is not possible to simply separate out offenders held in for drug possession – or even for all drug crime – and safely reduce the U.S. prison population by showing them lenience,” Meyers said. “Not only do they make up a small and diminishing proportion of a concurrently shrinking number of total state inmates, drug offending and violent offending are deeply interwoven among the prison population.”
Proponents of the idea that inmates with drug convictions are filling up prisons often point to the fact that 46.7% of prisoners in federal prison are serving drug sentences. Humphreys told Fox News Digital that argument is a “dishonest” one considering the federal prison population is much smaller than the state population and that federal drug convictions are not for low-level drug crimes but rather serious trafficking charges or crimes with unusual jurisdictional qualities.
“It’s a very unusual set of things that bring people into federal prison,” Humphreys said. “Also, violence is not charged at the federal level, hardly ever. Murder is charged almost entirely by states. Even if you average that in with state data you still, because it’s so small, you still end up with the conclusion that there’s really not that many people in prison for drugs.”
Prisoners in 2021 – Statistical tables report released December 2022. (Bureau of Justice Statistics)
Federal inmates make up roughly 11% of inmates in the United States, about 142,000, while 89% of inmates, about 1.04 million, are in state prisons, according to BJS data.
Smith told Fox News Digital that more than half of all prisoners in state prisons are there for violent offenses like rape and robbery.
“You hear some of these advocates saying they want to reduce the prison population by half or more – you’re going to have to let [out] people who’ve committed very serious, very heinous crimes,” Smith said.
The new BJS numbers are also a sign, according to Humphreys, that the narrative from many progressives that drug convictions are driving Black imprisonment is also not accurate given that the data shows “people in state prison for drug crimes are disproportionately whiter.”
“So, what that means is if you just tomorrow release every drug prisoner in the United States, racial disparities in imprisonment would go up, not down,” Humphreys said.
Smith told Fox News Digital that “especially with the push for more lenient bail policies” across the country and the effort to decriminalize possession, he “would be surprised if very many people who truly are just having simple possession issues, especially the first-time offenders, are spending any time incarcerated at all.”
Andrew Mark Miller is a writer at Fox News. Find him on Twitter @andymarkmiller and email tips to [email protected].
For complete article https://www.foxnews.com/us/new-prison-data-blows-up-narrative-that-low-level-drug-offenders-are-filling-up-u-s-prisons-experts
Drug Decriminalization Behind Terrifying Cartel-Style Killings In California
Over the last 30 years, many voters and policymakers in California and other states came to believe that decriminalizing drugs would reduce and even end drug-related violence in America. As drugs like marijuana were decriminalized and penalties for the possession of harder drugs were reduced from felonies to misdemeanors, the thinking went, we would see a decline in criminal gangs, mafias, and cartels that use violence to control production and distribution and to resolve disputes over market territory.
It’s now clear that the opposite has occurred. California’s marijuana decriminalization incentivized Mexican drug cartels to create illegal farms in the state’s redwood forests and bring their criminal lifestyles along with them. Cartel-connected murders, gun fights, sex trafficking, and missing persons are on the rise in Humboldt County. Environmental pollution from illegal pot farms is increasing. And the cartels have so frightened residents that they asked reporters with The Los Angeles Times not to use their names.
Meanwhile, California’s 2014 reduction of drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, and the de facto decriminalization of open-air drug markets by the city governments of San Francisco and Los Angeles, greatly expanded the reach of the Sinaloa cartel. Young men from Honduras, who are in the U.S. illegally, and protected by California’s sanctuary laws, publicly deal drugs supplied by the cartel in downtown San Francisco.
Just last week, a small town in California’s Central Valley saw a cartel-style killing of six people, including a 72-year-old woman, a 16-year-old girl, and her 10-month-old baby who she was cradling in her arms as she ran away from the killers. The massacre has raised the specter that the brutal violence that plagues much of Mexico, including the killing of children and family members by drug cartels, has arrived in the U.S. The killing occurred in the small city of Goshen, about a 30-minute drive southeast of Fresno on highway 99.
“We don’t know what it is yet,” said reporter Ioan Grillo, a journalist who has covered the Mexican drug cartels for 20 years. “I’d be surprised if the cartels were directly doing it because the Sinaloa cartel doesn’t want to bring all the heat on their people in the area. But whatever it is, I think it’s significant. You do not want this to become the norm in the United States, where cartels are everywhere.”
The cannabis cartel is upset with the latest ONDCP High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) report that was sent to Congress. The report is attached. Here is what Marijuana Moment, the cartel’s online newspaper, has to say about the report.
It compiles a long list of law enforcement complaints about cannabis legalization.
The Northern California HIDTA, for example said in the report that illicit cannabis “remains readily available” in the region despite the state’s legalization law” and that “consequently marijuana use remains extremely high and prices remain stable.”The California officials cited by the White House argue that state-level marijuana legalization “has likely invited more criminality connected to the production and transportation of the drug, especially by [drug trafficking organizations] and organized criminal groups” and that criminal groups “have created or partnered with ostensibly legal businesses to conduct illicit production and trafficking” in the state’s “highly accessible and lucrative cash-sales commodity.”They also claim that violent incidents and “weed rips” in which products are stolen “have become more common since legalization,” citing further concerns about human trafficking and smuggling related to the cannabis trade. Illegal growing on public lands like state and national parks “continues to pose a serious environmental threat, polluting and diverting water sources, and poisoning wildlife,” the section of the report says, adding that “THC extraction labs are a significant public safety hazard” with the propensity for explosions. There are now “many large labs selling manufactured products to legitimate storefronts,” it says.
Separately, the North Central HIDTA, which covers parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, said that “demand for higher-potency marijuana and marijuana-related products has remained high over the past several years,” claiming that illegal trafficking groups “source the majority of marijuana and THC products from Colorado and West Coast states that have legalized” cannabis for recreational and medical use.“There is continued concern over the relationship between marijuana trafficking and distribution and firearms and violent crime associated with these activities,” the regional outfit said. “In addition, the demand for and use of high-potency edibles, oils, and vaping products has remained high, creating a serious health risk to the user community.”
Meanwhile, the Ohio-based division of HIDTA had additional negative comments to make about the implications of state-level reform, arguing that the state’s medical cannabis program “has led to an even greater amount of marijuana usage” and that marijuana “remains the number one recreational drug used in the” region. But it also said that other states with broader recreational legalization are source points for cannabis that’s being consumed in the Ohio area.“Nearly all of the respondents to the 2020 Ohio HIDTA Drug Threat Survey reported the majority of marijuana consumed in their area was coming from the Western Region of the United States. It is not uncommon to see bulk shipments of high-grade marijuana products being brought into Ohio from states that have legalized marijuana such as California, Colorado, and Washington.”Cannabis vaping “has become one of the most common forms of illegal use of marijuana,” it said, expressing concern that such vaping products contain exceptionally high concentrations of THC. It added: “Edibles are becoming more popular with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Western States and medical marijuana in Ohio.”
The South Florida HIDTA, meanwhile, said that cannabis poses a “material threat” to the region, expressing concern that “the perceived danger of marijuana by the public is diminishing in scope due to the legalization of medical marijuana” in the state.“In addition, marijuana grow operations and the parcel shipment of commercially packaged marijuana from states where it is legal to Florida, where these activities are prohibited, are vast,” it said.
The Texoma HIDTA, which covers parts of Oklahoma and Texas, similarly cited concerns about drug trafficking organizations that “specialize in distribution of high-grade marijuana obtained from states with legalized forms of marijuana.”“These controlled substances are every bit as destructive as other ‘hard-core’ drugs and negatively impact the quality of life and safety of communities throughout Texas and Oklahoma.”
A Little History – ‘If you feel better, you must be better’, well so the 19th Century ‘science’ goes! Oh! wait a minute, de ja vu – here we go again?
Opening Insight from… ?? You know you’re in trouble when you ‘analyst’ is a self-medicating dealer!
While Freud’s crippling cocaine addiction would eventually take its toll in the meantime he eagerly promoted it far and wide as a tonic to cure depression and sexual impotence.His 1884 article entitled “Ãœber Coca” (About Coke) listed the diverse “benefits” of cocaine, calling it a “magical” substance despite evidence of frightening hallucinations, its use on Indian labourers working in silver mines for their Spanish colonialist masters and — possibly as an extra inducement— its role in “physical and moral decadence.”
French chemist, Angelo Mariani, decided to leverage coca leaves commercial value, concocting a tonic mixed with cocaine and Bordeaux wine. The result was Vin Mariani. A wildly successful drink with volumes of its advertised benefits distributed ranging from book and pamphlet style promotions cataloguing general claims of “restor[ing] health and vitality” to relieving malaria, fever, chills, nervous disability, mental and physical depression, and consumption.
Vin Mariani was a leader in the now vast and incredibly financially lucrative market of proprietary drug promotion drawing heavily on the use of celebrity endorsements.Names such Pope Leo XII, President William McKinley and Queen Victoria, French actress Sarah Bernhardt and the silent film industry more broadly lauded the astounding drink.From the 1850s to the early 1900s, cocaine and opium-laced elixirs, tonics and wines exploded, permeating all social classes.
It was the steady rise of prohibition that forced Pemberton’s hand to concoct an alcohol-free version, Coca-Cola.The novel bubbly and energizing drink helped skyrocket its popularity towards the turn of the century. Coca-Cola was as American as apple pie or Standard Oil. But once again, cocaine’s high market prevalence began drawing closer attention to its dangers and under public pressure Pemberton was this time obliged to remove it. Although some reports indicate the company continued adding cocaine well into the 1900s.
By 1905, it had become popular to snort cocaine and within five years, hospitals and medical literature had started reporting cases of nasal damage resulting from the use of this drug. In 1912, the United States government reported 5,000 cocaine-related deaths in one year.
How does cocaine affect the heart?
Cocaine’s effects on the heart can cause both immediate emergencies, such as a heart attack, and long-term damage.
Cocaine’s effects on the heart can cause both immediate emergencies, such as a heart attack, and long-term damage.
Regular, long-term cocaine use significantly increases the risk of heart disease. For people with pre-existing heart health problems, even short-term cocaine use may elevate the risk.
Keep reading to learn more about how cocaine affects the heart and when to seek medical attention.
Effects of cocaine on the heart
Cocaine is a stimulant, which means that it elevates blood pressure and heart rate, in addition to making a person feel more energetic and alert. These changes affect how the heart functions in the short term.
Prolonged cocaine use, however, may cause long-term heart health issues.
The effects of cocaine on the heart include:
Coronary artery disease
Some, but not all, studies involving cocaine users suggest that cocaine may increase the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD). This disease causes blood vessels to narrow as a result of the buildup of plaque.
CAD is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke, as well as for sudden death. Cocaine users who have other risk factors – such as having overweight or eating an unhealthful diet – or who use cocaine for a long time may sustain further heart damage. This additional damage increases the risk of heart attack even more.
Cocaine can also cause coronary artery spasms that limit blood flow to the heart, possibly causing heart damage.
Cocaine use can elevate blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart health problems and heart attack. A 2014 study suggests that this risk may exist even in people who are young and healthy and only use cocaine occasionally.
Damage to the structure of the heart
Cocaine use may damage the physical structures of the heart, either directly or by causing other serious issues, such as high blood pressure. A small 2014 study found that cocaine users who were otherwise young and healthy had enlarged left ventricles compared with non-users. They also had increased stiffness in the aorta, a major blood vessel of the heart.
This damage increases the risk of other heart health problems, such as irregular heart rate. It may also elevate the risk of heart attack.Heart arrhythmias
People who use cocaine are more likely to have irregular or elevated heart rates. The reason for this may be that cocaine changes the sodium and potassium ion channels in the heart, affecting its electrical system. Many people who use cocaine may feel as though their heart is racing while under the influence. For some, this can cause anxiety.
Some research indicates that cocaine-related deaths increase in hot weather. The authors suggest that this is due to heat-induced heart rate changes triggering heart rhythm issues.
Congestive heart failure
Congestive heart failure is a chronic medical condition that some people develop after a history of cocaine use. In those with this condition, the heart muscle cannot effectively pump blood. Over time, this can lead to serious complications, such as organ failure.
Cocaine use damages fertility in men and women and can make it difficult to start a family. The Australian campaign warns that using cocaine damages men’s ability to produce sperm, and disrupts women’s ovulation cycles. “It is time that we end the myth about cocaine. It is a dangerous drug,’’ Commander Schofield said
The damage that cocaine does to the heart and blood vessels increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. High blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and similar risk factors all increase a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke.
Cocaine also blocks certain sodium and potassium channels that affect heart functioning. In this way, it may damage the heart over time or cause abnormal heart rhythms that increase the risk of heart attack and other injuries.
A 2018 study suggests that cocaine may also increase the risk of heart attack in young people who would otherwise be at low risk. The study included 2,097 people under the age of 50 years who had had a heart attack.
The participants who used illegal drugs, such as cocaine, had fewer traditional heart health risk factors, including diabetes. Despite this, they were still twice as likely to die in the years following their heart attack.
About 5% of the participants had used cocaine before their heart attack. This fact suggests, though does not prove, that cocaine may trigger heart attack in some people.
Scientists have long known that cocaine works by latching on to molecular connectors on the surface of brain cells, allowing dopamine, a chemical that promotes feelings of pleasure and reward, to accumulate in the space between brain cells. Now, Johns Hopkins Medicine scientists say they have found a molecular connector, known as the BASP1 receptor, that binds cocaine, even when the drug is present in very low doses.
After reviewing research done at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom, and the University at Buffalo showing that BASP1 also binds to the female hormone estrogen, Harraz suspects that BASP1 may already be linked with the hormone in female mice.
He says he is conducting further research to explore this finding. Many studies have shown that while both men and women become addicted to cocaine, women are more susceptible to the drug than men; however, the molecular mechanisms remain poorly understood.
Harraz is also looking for drugs that can interfere with the binding between cocaine and the BASP1 receptor, which could potentially be developed to treat cocaine substance use disorder.
The study, conducted in mice and laboratory-grown mouse brain cells, suggests that blocking the BASP1 receptor may reduce the stimulant effect of cocaine, but only in male mice, not in females, maybe due to the stronger presence of estrogen hormone in the females.
Don’t tell me you’re woke if you do coke! Children are being murdered, rainforests destroyed, and criminal networks bankrolled, so don’t pretend you care about social justice or the planet if you take cocaine #SDGs (Neo-Woke Wankers)
UNODC Drug Market Trends 2021 – Cocaine
Demand for Cocaine:In 2019, roughly 20 million people worldwide (range: 17—25 million), or 0.4 per cent of the adult population aged 15—64 (range: 0.3 per cent—0.5 per cent), had used cocaine in the past year. A high prevalence of cocaine use is estimated in Oceania (mainly for the subregion Australia and New Zealand, where it is 2.7 per cent), North America (2.1 per cent), Western and Central Europe (1.4 per cent) and South and Central America (nearly 1.0. per cent). The estimated extent of cocaine use in other subregions is far below the global average, although the availability of data is limited. Between 2010 and 2019, the estimated prevalence of past year cocaine use remained fairly stable, at about 0.4 per cent, but population growth led to an increase of 22 per cent in the number of people who had used cocaine in the past year.
Cocaine manufacture reached record levels in 2019 despite growth losing momentum
Cocaine use increased from 68 per cent in 2020 to 80 per cent in 2021, the highest per cent observed since national monitoring began in 2003, although frequency of use remained low, with 7 per cent of people reporting weekly or more frequent use. University of NSW News Room Report Oct 2021
The danger cocaine presents to individuals and social structures is no longer debated. The suddenness of the spread of cocaine abuse and its accompanying violence has led some prominent people to suggest that all illicit drugs, including cocaine, be legalized to prevent the fueling of illicit drug empires and to preserve civil liberties that strict drug laws threaten. This solution is not widely embraced and is noteworthy mainly because it indicates the dissatisfaction with current approaches to the cocaine epidemic.
This book by Dr Gabriel G. Nahas also displays strong dissatisfaction with current approaches to the cocaine epidemic. Nahas, who has written extensively about the dangers of marijuana, begins his assessment of contemporary approaches to cocaine by reviewing historical attitudes toward cocaine and its control.
California has done little to address its explosion of illegal cannabis farms
SIX YEARS after legalization with the idea of crippling the outlaw pot trade, illicit farms abound in Mount Shasta Vista, Calif.
At this hour and distance, serene hues cloak the rugged enclave of Mount Shasta Vista, a tense collective of seasonal camps guarded by guns and dogs where the daily runs of water trucks are interrupted by police raids, armed robberies and, sometimes, death. So many hoop houses pack this valley near the Oregon border that last year it had the capacity to supply half of California’s entire legal cannabis market.
Instead, a Los Angeles Times investigation finds, the law triggered a surge in illegal cannabis on a scale California has never before witnessed.
Rogue cultivation centers like Mount Shasta Vista now engulf rural communities scattered across the state, as far afield as the Mojave Desert, the steep mountains on the North Coast, and the high desert and timberlands of the Sierra Nevada.
Residents in these places describe living in fear next to heavily armed camps. Criminal enterprises operate with near impunity, leasing private land and rapidly building out complexes of as many as 100 greenhouses. Police are overwhelmed, able to raid only a fraction of the farms, and even those are often back in business in days.
The raids rip out plants and snare low-wage laborers while those responsible, some operating with money from overseas, remain untouched by the law, hidden behind straw buyers and fake names on leases.
Labor exploitation is common, and conditions are sometimes lethal. The Times documented more than a dozen deaths of growers and workers poisoned by carbon monoxide.
The scale of the crisis is immense. A Times analysis of satellite imagery covering thousands of square miles of the state showed dramatic expansion in cannabis cultivation where land is cheap and law enforcement spread thin, regardless of whether those communities permitted commercial cultivation.
The boom accompanied a switch in cultivation technique, from annual harvests of outdoor plots to large, canopy-covered hoop houses that permit three to five harvests a year.
The explosive growth has had grave, far-reaching consequences, according to a Times review of state, county and court records as well as interviews with scores of local residents, legal and illegal cannabis growers, laborers, law enforcement, market analysts, community activists and public officials:
Outlaw grows have exacerbated cannabis-related violence, bringing shootouts, robberies, kidnappings and, occasionally, killings. Some surrounded residents say they are afraid to venture onto their own properties.
Laborers often toil in squalid, dangerous conditions and frequently are cheated of wages. In four counties alone since legalization, carbon monoxide from generators and charcoal braziers has killed seven workers as they labored or tried to stay warm in sealed greenhouses on illegal farms, and eight more inside uninhabitable buildings, coroner records show.
Intense cultivation is causing unmeasured environmental damage. Millions of gallons of water are being diverted at a time of severe drought, pulled out of aquifers even as the wells of local homeowners go dry. Unchecked chemical fertilizers have been deployed, along with banned, lethal pesticides.
The immense scale of illegal cultivation fed a glut that crashed wholesale prices last year, jeopardizing even those in the licensed market. Small-scale legal farmers unable to sell their crop have been pushed toward financial ruin.
The pitch for Proposition 64 focused on grand benefits: an end to drug possession laws that penalized the poor and people of color, and the creation of a commercial market that in 2021 generated $5.3 billion in taxed sales.
But California failed to address the reality that decriminalizing a vast and highly profitable illegal industry would open the door to a global pool of organized criminals and opportunists.
For those sidestepping taxes and regulation, the reduced criminal penalties included in Proposition 64 lowered the cost and risk of doing business.
Although no hard data exist on the size of the illegal market, it is indisputably many times larger than the licensed community. The Times’ analysis of satellite images shows that unlicensed operations in many of California’s biggest cultivation areas, such as parts of Trinity and Mendocino counties, outnumbered licensed farms by as much as 10 to 1.
Butte County, at the northern end of the state’s Central Valley, tried to ban commercial cultivation, but the area covered by cannabis greenhouses in Berry Creek soared 700% in five years. Ravaged by wildfire, it is not rebuilt homes but the shiny plastic of greenhouses that gleams between the charred black skeletons of the forest.
Neither a ban nor lack of water dissuaded outlaw growers from erecting hoop houses on the desert sands of Lucerne Valley, where the state mapped 13 cannabis plots before legalization and The Times last year found 935 greenhouses. A still-running campaign by the San Bernardino County sheriff in 12 months razed more than 8,200 greenhouses without running out of targets.
California has done little to address the crisis.
Enforcement efforts against the illicit market are spread across a variety of state agencies with insufficient resources and very different priorities. Seven years after water regulators set out to map and measure the impact of cannabis cultivation in California, the work remains unfinished.
Under Gov. Gavin Newsom, a champion of legalization, California has subscribed to an industry-backed theory that market forces will eventually squeeze out illegal growers. When licensed growers this year complained they could not compete, Newsom agreed to tax breaks and his administration created incentives to expand the market by giving grants to communities that allow commercial cannabis.
At the same time, he increased the penalties against those that don’t. Communities that prohibit commercial cannabis are already barred from key state enforcement grants. A measure written into Newsom’s budget bill also blocks them from the closed-door meetings of a task force set up to advise the governor’s administration on cannabis policy, including what to do about the illegal market.
Illegal cannabis’ thorniest challenges fall on overwhelmed local law enforcement agencies and code enforcement departments, ill-equipped to contend with criminal networks behind the growth.
The rugged forests and valleys of Mendocino County, deep in the heart of California’s famed Emerald Triangle, renowned for the quality and quantity of its weed production, have an estimated 5,000 illegal cannabis farms. The grows range from homestead farms to dangerous drug-trade operations, such as one where deputies this spring found an AK-47 modified for full-automatic fire.
The sheriff’s cannabis enforcement team consists of a single sergeant and a part-time deputy. They try to identify the worst offenders, borrow officers from neighboring counties for raids and ignore the rest.
“It’s like taking on a gargantuan army with a pocket knife,” said Sheriff Matt Kendall.
In the run-up to California’s 2016 watershed cannabis vote, Mouying Lee positioned himself at the forefront of a wave.
He moved from Fresno to Siskiyou County’s high desert to snap up scores of cheap lots in a failed vacation resort called Mount Shasta Vista, little more than a spiderweb of cinder paths bulldozed between lava rock and juniper scrub.
Then Lee sold most of the dusty, empty plots to Hmong like himself. Hundreds moved from across the United States to the area populated mostly by white hay farmers and cattle ranchers.
The would-be entrepreneur described his vision of a cultural center for his people, Laotian refugees persecuted for siding with the U.S. during the Vietnam War.
But in the dry volcanic valley, punished by sun and desiccating wind, the newcomers built virtually no homes. They slept in sheds, or beneath tarps, and tended 99-plant gardens of cannabis, one leafy stalk short of the federal cutoff for prison. When the snow arrived, they and the harvest disappeared.
Similar cannabis-centric enclaves emerged across Northern California, often named after Laotian mountains or battlefields. They were controversial in the Hmong community, but even critics said the farms provided a steady flow of cash to a struggling population of immigrants.
Lee said most of the cannabis in Mount Shasta Vista was grown for personal use and “the old way of medicine,” such as brewing cannabis tea and putting it in the shower for steam baths. He voiced dismay that Siskiyou County’s more established residents accused the Hmong arrivals of organized crime.
Law enforcement frequently intercepted shipments of hundred-pound parcels of cannabis sent from the Mount Shasta Vista farms. The sheriff’s posse mounted dawn raids and the county Board of Supervisors passed ordinances that not only banned commercial cannabis but the water deliveries that kept the grows green.
Lee said it was a cultural misunderstanding, if not overt racism.
Court filings show Lee was central to a highly organized cannabis operation. Investigators raiding his houses found water delivery schedules and receipts for dues for a 534-member association. The files tracked members’ medical marijuana cards and voting records as well as search warrants executed by the sheriff. An investigator alleged the organization even insured members against losses from raids. In texts admitted into the court record, Lee brokered cannabis sales by the hundreds of pounds to buyers flying in from afar.
With the opening of the recreational cannabis market, Lee expanded beyond his Hmong clientele. He bought large parcels outside Mount Shasta Vista, bulldozing one 620-acre tract so barren the scar is visible from space. Dubbed the “Cinder Pit” by police, it contained 82 plots, each with two greenhouses and a shed. Tenants arrested during drug raids told police they had leased their plots for $10,000 a season.
It was not the sheriff but a tax agent who stopped Lee’s expansion.
In 2020, with help from the California Franchise Tax Board, county authorities charged Lee with money laundering and tax fraud, accusing him of hiding some $1.5 million in unreported earnings. Lee pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors asked a judge to set his bail at $3 million, but Lee was released on his own recognizance.
Even with Lee sidelined, the expansion of cannabis farms in Mount Shasta Vista continued, attracting other groups who spilled out across the valley of Juniper Flat.
Single-family plots gave way to multi-season greenhouses. Some built industrial-scale complexes that made the small Hmong camps look timid.
“I never thought it was going to be like that,” Lee said this spring as he paced the upper balcony at the courthouse, waiting for his Beverly Hills lawyer to fly in for settlement talks with the county prosecutor.
At night the cannabis camps glow like a small city. The Times mapped more than 1,300 farms in Juniper Flat last year. Their greenhouses covered more than 10 million square feet, a 4,200% increase since 2018.
It is the densest known concentration of illegal cannabis cultivation in California.
Once the dominion of ranchers and retirees, the valley has taken on outlaw qualities. Lookouts are posted at entrances off the highway. Armed robberies are frequent. In 2018, deputies seized seven guns during raids on illegal farms. Last year, they found 66. This spring, police were summoned to one farm to fetch two intruders left tied to a fence post.
Last month, four men who appeared to be in their 30s surrounded a Times photographer parked along the public highway outside Mount Shasta Vista, where he had stopped to document water trucks in the distance filling up at a hay farmer’s well. One of the men took out a tire iron and began hitting the photographer’s car, denting the body and smashing the rear windshield and a sideview mirror.
Another told him: “The only reason you don’t have a bullet in your head right now is because you are talking to me.”
Two years ago, masked assailants attacked a Mount Shasta Vista grower and his companions, tied them up and killed the grower. Police suspect it was an execution. It remains unsolved.
Also that summer, three men from Southern California carrying AR-15-style assault rifles tried to rob growers. In the ensuing shootout, one of the men was killed and his wounded accomplices fled on foot through the rocky cannabis farms, calling 911 to beckon police to their rescue. That killing also remains unsolved.
So do the killings of two Hmong women from Milwaukee in 2019. They were shot on a cannabis farm near the Oregon state line, where another enclave has settled, rarely visited by police.
Since 2016, at least eight cannabis growers in Siskiyou County have died of carbon monoxide poisoning as they tried to keep warm with charcoal braziers and unventilated generators, according to coroner records obtained by The Times. The body of a ninth carbon monoxide victim was found last year dumped on the side of Interstate 5, wrapped in his sleeping bag. Police have no clue where he died, but they presume it was a cannabis operation. Six of the dead were Hmong.
Det. Sgt. Cory Persing commands the county drug enforcement unit, wrestling not just with cannabis but fentanyl, meth and everything else. The five-person unit is down to two, Persing and another sergeant, so they must call for volunteers from the jail to staff raids.
Because of the Proposition 64 prohibition barring counties that do not permit commercial growing from state enforcement grants, they rely on funding from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.
The ballot measure also dramatically lowered the cost of business for illegal operators, reducing the criminal penalty for unlicensed cultivation from a felony punishable with time behind bars to a $500 misdemeanor no matter how large the crop. To bring a felony case that might shut down an operation, state prosecutors must find other charges. That requires investigators.
Persing has none.
He is caught in an endless cycle of writing search warrants and ripping out plants. Nine out of 10 grows go untouched. He has returned to raided farms three days later to find them back in operation.
On a sunny day in October, Persing’s team hit four small growing camps. Alerted by the lookouts, the growers had fled by the time the convoy arrived. Only a penned dog was left, snarling and snapping, a pile of dry food on the ground kicked through the bars as though even its owners were afraid to get close.
Officers used a mini-dozer to raze cannabis beneath a hoop house built out of PVC pipe, while Persing peered inside one of the plywood sheds used for habitation. He laid the search warrant and a receipt for 157 pounds of seized cannabis on a mattress set on two-by-fours, beside an empty rifle case.
An outdated watering schedule hung on the unfinished wall. The shed held personal financial papers for at least four people, and an offer to buy 70 acres in eastern Oklahoma where there is a cannabis land rush. A garbage pail and a plastic bucket in a makeshift stall suggested a shower. A single-burner camp stove suggested cooking, but there was no food.
Persing stood on the ridge road, sunglasses perched atop his close-cropped head, and pointed out Mount Shasta Vista.
Then he used his arm to trace the expansion since 2019. In the valley below, the white forms of hoop houses stretched for miles.
“This is all of the new stuff,” Persing said, sweeping his arm east across the valley. “I mean, like, prior to this, there was one house up in here. It has just grown, swoosh, all the way around.”
Some cannabis camps empty their pit toilets onto the ground and trash into other holes. When the wind blows, empty fertilizer bags wrap themselves around fences like tumbleweeds. Growers have bulldozed parcels flat, scraping away vegetation, and the land is cut by deep erosion scars littered with empty water totes and growing piles of detritus. With the market collapse, some of the hoop houses are abandoned, and dogs that once guarded the farms now run in packs that sometimes attack cattle, and are frequently found dead or starving.
“All of that’s illegal. Nobody seems to care,” said Persing, exasperation wearing on his voice.
Beyond Highway Patrol and wildlife officers who sometimes lend a hand with physical labor, Persing said, “we don’t get much help from any state agency.”
Struggling licensed cannabis growers like Mary Gaterud also feel abandoned.
Her plants are organically nurtured in microbe-rich soil and mulched with a winter cover of fava beans. She spent years developing sweet-scented stocks, grown herself from seed, so that when she pops opens a harvest tub in her state-inspected processing facility, a converted root cellar, the smell is heavy with pineapple and coconut.
Her harvest fell victim to a glut in cannabis that drove down wholesale prices. A pound of dried flower, which just a few years earlier would sell in California for more than $2,000, was now worth less than $300. If it sold at all.
Late last year, as Gaterud cut the summer’s harvest, her distributor in Los Angeles shipped back her 2020 crop, unsold and so damaged by poor storage Gaterud wasn’t even sure it was hers.
There was nothing else to do with the premium plants but ship them to an extractor to be mulched and reduced to generic oil.
Gaterud and many other small farmers now face financial disaster.
“I’m barely hanging on,” she said.
The glut was driven by two factors: the surge in illegal growing and the state’s issuance of licenses to grow more cannabis than Californians consume.
Nicole Elliott, the governor’s cannabis advisor and the head of the Department of Cannabis Control, said she believed California’s licensed cannabis crop was about 3.6 million pounds, in a state that consumed less than 2 million pounds.
The Times’ analysis of state licensing records and production estimates put the state’s 2021 legal crop at well more than 7 million pounds, even accounting for crop failures and growers who did not plant.
Asked about The Times’ findings of increased illegal cultivation, Elliott said: “Do I think it’s worse? I honestly couldn’t say one way or another.”
Elliott said ensuring the integrity of the legal market is her first focus “before we expand those efforts out to the illegal market.” Other state agencies, she said, are better equipped to contend with illicit grows.
Still, she said, “it’s not like we’re sitting on our hands doing nothing.”
In July, the department issued a news release heralding the removal of illicit cannabis from the market, but detailed warrant logs obtained by The Times under California’s public records law show most of those seizures were led by other police agencies. In the year since July 2021, the department’s 59 sworn officers have initiated only 26 of their own warrants against illicit growers.
The department’s enforcement chief told The Times he was unable to provide a list of criminal cases that resulted from those efforts.
The logs show most of the division’s focus is on urban areas and Southern California. In that same time frame, the Department of Cannabis Control enforcement actions in Mendocino County — beset with violent, large-scale criminal operations — were limited to a single day of raids on four small farms along a creek, at the behest of wildlife officers. There were no arrests.
The remainder of state enforcement is fractured and limited in focus. National Guard teams still conduct summer raids that slash plants, but they remove less than a quarter of the crop of eradication campaigns a decade earlier. The state water resources boards were front-runners in approaching illicit cannabis as an environmental threat, but when fees from cannabis permits fell short of budgeted projections, the boards in 2020 cut their cannabis enforcement departments by half.
Cannabis growing that endangers either remains a felony. But the 68 Fish and Wildlife cannabis field officers who have the expertise to document those crimes are spread thin. Nine agents cover the seven-county area responsible for an estimated 40% of illegal cultivation.
State regulators have had authority since 2019 to fine unlicensed growers up to $30,000 a day, and to seek civil penalties that can exceed $300,000 a day.
Although the state has sanctioned licensed growers for violating regulations, The Times found the state attorney general has never invoked civil penalties for unlicensed cultivation. The Department of Cannabis Control used the tool once — against a Shasta County school janitor and his wife accused of leasing their land for nine illegal greenhouses.
Elliott could not explain why the case was filed at all. She said it was a departure from what she believed department priorities should be.
Other states experiencing rampant outlaw activity have taken more aggressive measures. In Oregon, the problem prompted a special session of the Legislature to step up police raids and services for exploited workers. Oklahoma’s attorney general is investigating law firms accused of helping growers skirt residency requirements.
Gaterud, on her farm deep in the mountains of Humboldt County, said she feels betrayed by California and angry that she suffers while those flouting the law go unstopped.
Regulators, she said, repeatedly demanded detailed drawings of her farm’s plans and conducted nine separate inspections. She estimates she spent $100,000 on fees and improvements to her property to meet local and state requirements.
As the winter rains set in, she began borrowing money from friends and relatives to live on. She got a part-time online job as coordinator of an astrology school to make ends meet.
Her 2021 crop came back from the distributor, also unsold.
“I’m afraid that I am one bad piece of news away from having to list my property,” she said, “and abandon my dream, life, everything I have fought for.”
In the summer of 2020, Julian “Terps” Sanchez left his Orange County apartment for long buying trips in Northern California to scour illegal farms for 100-pound boxes of processed cannabis buds.
At home, his father, a former meth distributor named Miguel Sarabia, used a strip mall cellphone and satellite dish franchise in Lakewood to build a clandestine lab to make distilled oil for edibles and vaping cartridges imported from Hong Kong.
The father and son represented the connection that enables illicit growers like those in Mount Shasta Vista to reach a national market.
Sanchez supplied a Milwaukee operation some 250 pounds of cannabis a month, and his father provided thousands of vape cartridges, according to plea statements and other court filings. In just six months, the California wholesalers were paid an estimated $1.7 million, much of it sent through the mail with bills painstakingly taped between the pages of magazines. It was a low-risk drug that commanded high street prices, especially sold as vape cartridges, Sarabia’s defense lawyer said, making cannabis more attractive and more lucrative than cocaine or heroin.
On the Milwaukee side, affidavits and plea statements filed in federal court detail stash houses, business fronts and large weapons caches that included untraceable “ghost guns.” The arsenal of one woman, who gathered family members in a basement to assemble vape cartridges, included a baby blue Glock on her dresser and another Glock in a baby bassinet. The ring’s local leader was a Mexican Posse gang member who, an informant told investigators, twice boasted of shooting a “snitch.”
Sarabia had his eyes on the expanding world of legal cannabis. Should Wisconsin approve recreational cannabis, he claimed on a 2020 wiretapped call, influential political connections guaranteed Sarabia a wholesale license. He had already bought the building.
“I’ll be the first one,” he boasted.
Federal and state investigators in Wisconsin shut down the trade in late 2020, charging 26 defendants. Sanchez pleaded guilty to drug and gun charges for a 10-year sentence. Sarabia admitted to a single drug conspiracy charge and was given five years in prison. None of the farms supplying the drug ring were identified.
Few ever are.
Police and prosecutors told The Times that cannabis-related crimes are a low priority, even in the federal court system, where cannabis is classified the same as heroin and LSD. They described unwritten hurdles their investigations must clear — such as proof of laundering millions of dollars — before superiors will approve money and time to prosecute. In the rare instances when charges are filed, they generally don’t target the people who head or fund the operations.
Federal justice officials in 2018 heralded investigators who used utility bills and tracking devices to identify some 130 indoor grow houses in Sacramento run by a network of buyers who wired money from China. Nearly half of the 21 people charged were Chinese citizens.
Five years after the first arrests, most of those charged have yet to go to trial. The operation’s leaders weren’t identified. A federal official connected with the case, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said Chinese authorities won’t cooperate on such investigations and U.S. Justice Department supervisors in Washington, D.C., did not give the green light to continue digging.
The best hope, he said, was to seize local assets and “disrupt the finances … and put pressure on whoever is organizing this stuff.”
Nearly half of the money for the grow houses came from local private investors who made high-interest loans to buyers with few obvious financial resources. Court records show the lenders included a Sacramento physician who told the court he hated cannabis, but was unwittingly steered into underwriting illegal grow houses by a real estate agent now charged in the conspiracy. And, he said, it was very profitable.
Federal prosecutors allowed him, as they do with other such lenders, to recoup his money when the property sold, even though a forfeiture motion remained pending.
In one of the few federal cases that resulted in a conviction for illegal cultivation, probation officials recommended four years in prison for Aaron Li.
Li, who has a PhD in vision science from UC Berkeley, used money from unindicted conspirators in China to turn nine suburban homes in San Bernardino County into clandestine grow houses. Court records laid out the mechanics of a sophisticated scheme that ran until 2019, involving stolen electricity, straw buyers, fake leases, purloined passport information and money moved from China to shell companies in the U.S. One of the participants was a confessed money-laundering courier for a Mexican narcotics ring.
Li’s defense lawyer told a judge that his client was acting under orders from unnamed bosses he feared, a claim she repeated to The Times.
U.S. District Judge George Wu initially announced an eight-month sentence. After Li said that he had young children, the judge reduced it to six months.
“Marijuana is being cultivated legally — it’s just a question of getting the licenses,” Wu said during sentencing. “There’s so much of it. So why would I impose a lengthy sentence?”
A federal prosecutor in the case said there was no interest in investigating beyond Li, saying the case had met its primary goal, shutting down a community nuisance.
State Assemblyman Thurston “Smitty” Smith (R-Apple Valley) this winter proposed restoring felony charges for large-scale growers, but with no co-signers he yanked the doomed bill before its first hearing. His substitute measure to increase civil fines passed the Assembly but failed to progress in the Senate.
A growers’ group, the California Cannabis Equity Alliance, called the proposed increase in fines “a symbolic deterrent that will be good for a press release and little else.”
“The potential profits to be made are too great.”
In the bowl of a beautiful and tragic valley bordered by the Eel River in Mendocino County sits tiny Covelo.
It was the site of California’s largest state-financed massacre — a campaign that in 1856-59 slaughtered more than 1,000 Yuki tribal members — and the destination for the U.S. military’s forced march of five more tribes. Remote and at times unreachable, the community has struggled since the downturn of the timber industry and closure of the local flour mill.
But Covelo had cannabis.
Small outdoor cash crops were common on Round Valley’s patchwork of private, federal and reservation lands. Mendocino County and the tribes were tolerant, even if the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs did not approve.
After legalization, outsiders rolled into the town in expensive, lifted trucks with Central Valley license plates, moving as a group. They began leasing land from tribal members.
By the summer of 2021, the town was overtaken. A Times analysis of satellite images showed the valley floor that summer had 1,033 homes and 2,423 cannabis hoop houses, almost one for every resident.
More than half are unlicensed. Hoop houses not only fill farm lots, but backyards and front yards. They stand by the schools, behind the auto parts store, beside the Catholic chapel.
“We have been totally overrun,” Round Valley Indian Tribes director James Russ said at a county advisory committee meeting last year. “Not just this reservation, but also this whole valley.”
With the surge in illegal cultivation came heavy-duty weapons, violence and lethal chemicals. On one 2021 raid, deputies found bottles of Metrifos, with “peligroso” — dangerous — and a skull and crossbones on the label. The nerve poison, taken off the U.S. market in 2009, is still sold in Mexico to protect crops from rodents. The sheriff said one deputy became ill after the raid and was hospitalized with poisoning symptoms.
Working conditions on the farms are harsh. Laborers described 14-hour days, living in tents without sanitation and having to provide their own food with the promise of pay after the harvest, if it came at all. Wage theft is so common laborers circulate lists of “no pay” farms.
In 2019, 40-year-old Jose Ramon Mejia Rios, a local man, died inside the cannabis greenhouse he was tending. The county coroner determined carbon monoxide killed him. A young woman living on the property told The Times that Rios was part of a crew of growers who leased space for their illegal greenhouses from her aunt. They pulled out after the death, she said, and others took over.
The next year, two more workers died less than a mile apart, under similar conditions, coroner records show.
Osnin Noe Quintanilla-Melendez, 32, from Honduras died sleeping in a cannabis hoop house with a running generator.
Across from the local landfill, on a site with 52 illegal greenhouses, Wilson Andres Rodriguez Villalobos, a 32-year-old worker from Colombia, was found face-down inside an illegal greenhouse warmed by propane torches.
Months later, on the same farm, another worker disappeared. Victor Medina’s family in San Jose received a ransom call from kidnappers unable to prove the missing man was still alive.
“Cuidado con Covelo,” one person wrote on a WhatsApp forum for cannabis workers, “que esta muy turbio.”
Watch out for Covelo. It’s very shady.
“Aparecen muertos a cada rato.”
Dead people appear all the time.
In the late fall, a game warden investigating the smell from an abandoned car outside Covelo opened the trunk to find the decomposed corpse of Marco Antonio Barrera Beltran, 51, a Mexican citizen who’d been living in the Central Valley. The sheriff said he had been working on an illegal cannabis farm in Covelo. Beltran had been shot to death.
The murder investigation included a search of a bank of cannabis farms where another worker died of carbon monoxide poisoning the year before. But the case remains unsolved.
Covelo residents who spoke to The Times asked that their names not be used because they were fearful of the growers around them.
One woman’s water well now runs dry each May, the shallow aquifer tapped by massive greenhouses that surround her house on three sides. She has gone to extremes: let the garden die, collect drips from the faucets, clean dishes with a spray bottle, and rely on a garden hose from the neighbors and a storage tank to get through the summer. The growers next door haul in water by the truckload. Their generators run constantly, workers defecate in her yard, and she must block her windows at night with cardboard to cut the glare from greenhouses.
Other residents described finding a cannabis worker, unpaid and stranded in the hills, weeping and afraid his employer would return to kill him. During a recent raid of an illegal farm, sheriff’s deputies encountered two workers from Mexico who said they had been held there against their will.
“Right now, from the decimation I see in my valley, it … breaks my heart,” said Kat Willits, a local school administrator and former council member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes.
Willits spent her childhood in Covelo visiting family, roaming the valley, swimming in the creek beside spawning salmon. She was appalled to return as an adult and find so many community members dependent on leasing to illegal growers.
“Some people say that’s the only way they can make money now,” said Willits. “[But] they’re not making money… they’re also decimating their own land with the byproducts of cannabis grows.”
She said cannabis cash has hastened Covelo’s social decay, not uplifted it. There are more junked cars, more decaying homes, and more violence.
“Great tradeoff,” she said, with apparent sarcasm, “for some California college kids to be able to puff on a pen filled with a cannabis product in public.
“What people think of as a harmless drug or medicinal product have not seen what lies in the belly of the beast.”
In states where recreational marijuana is legal, adolescents ages 12 to 17 reported a 25% higher increase than in states without legalized cannabis. The spike in marijuana usage that came with legalization is most dramatic among young people, and advertising probably drives the increase.
The unstated goals of the legalization movement – seen in the billboards, push polls, lobbying, political donations and empty promises – are making money and increasing usage.
The stated goals of the legalization movement are tax money, keeping people out of jail, social justice and regulation. If regulation and keeping it away from youth were the actual goals, why is billboard advertising allowed in places youth see it? Residents of five states will vote on legalizing and commercializing marijuana, but do they understand how bad the advertising is?
Billboard Marketing and Problematic Cannabis Use Among Adolescents
The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs published an article on Cannabis Marketing and Problematic Use Among Adolescents. From interviewing 172 teens who use pot in 6 states, University of North Carolina researchers concluded that seeing cannabis shops and billboards had a greater effect on teens than social media marketing.
Billboards have a public, in-your-face message and give legitimacy, which the marijuana industry exploits. Attempts to get rid of the billboards go poorly, as the cannabis industry fights all regulations.
Some parents mistakenly think it’s not an issue when your kids use marijuana. Yet the majority of those who die of overdose started drug use with cannabis. Many also don’t understand that plant modification and extraction processes make today’s cannabis 10x, 20x and even 50x stronger than the marijuana of the past. In Colorado, teens use the most potent products at 3x the rate of adults. Those who use today’s marijuana under age 25 risk addiction to it and mental health disorders.
“Certainly the consumption of marijuana has been going up across all of the country, and it has been driven by the legislation.”
~ Dr. Nora Volkow
The cannabis industry uses the same playbook for addiction-for-profit marketing that created the opioid crisis. Once again, people are supposed to believe that this product is not addictive and poses no risks.
Studies have found that cannabis use has increased in the U.S. states that have legalized it. A Canadian study determined that cannabis use increased even among people who were not cannabis users prior to legalization. However, increases are less dramatic in adults over age 25. One major study found that past month marijuana usage in adults aged 26 and over went up slightly, from 6% to 7% in states that had legalized it.
Skyrocketing marijuana use among young people is not an accident. It is a deliberate marketing strategy by the cannabis industry. Dr. LaTisha Bader, PhD, the Clinical Director for a Denver-area recovery program explains:
“…this industry is using every profiteering strategy they can. They have learned the best lessons from the alcohol industry by targeting demographics of culture, to the duplicity of Big Tobacco testifying to its innocuous existence. If you read any basic business article reflecting how to attract and retain customers, the key is to….entice new users, to make recreational users regular users, and keep regular users loyal.”
The Bottom Line about Young People and Marijuana
“Cannabis is the most prevalent drug used by the under-18s, and during this critical period of development, services should be especially aware of and responsive to the problems that cannabis use can cause for adolescent populations.”
~ Dr. Steven Marwaha, PhD, University of Birmingham
The data doesn’t lie. This at once is both a serious public health concern and a sobering reminder of the consequences of cannabis legalization. Marijuana is not harmless, and it is a serious mistake to make it even more available than it already is. Unfortunately, the people who suffer the most for that mistake are the ones most vulnerable to the drug’s harmful effects – teenagers and young adults.
Have any states actually “regulated” marijuana successfully?
Vermont and Connecticut enacted potency caps into their legalization programs, although neither program has gotten off the ground. This year Vermont had to fight back against an attempt to stop the potency caps.
Be careful, because ballot initiatives never do what they say they’ll do. Beware of broken promises!
Cannabis is just as harmful as cocaine and crack and should be classified as a Class A drug, police chiefs say
Police chiefs say cannabis is as harmful as cocaine and should be made Class A
Tory police and crime commissioners to demand it be put on a par with crack
Change would see penalties for possession increase from five to seven years
Maximum penalty for supplying cannabis would be a life jail sentence
David Sidwick, the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, said there was growing evidence linking psychosis and mental ill health, cancer and birth defects to cannabis use.
Calling it a ‘gateway’ drug used by county lines gangs to lure in users, he warned: ‘No child ever went to a drug dealer for heroin for their first deal – they would all have started with a bit of weed.’
The proposal is also being backed by Alison Hernandez, PCC for Devon and Cornwall, and Avon and Somerset’s police and crime commissioner Mark Shelford. They will present their plans at the Conservative Party Conference alongside academics.
Mr Sidwick told The Telegraph: ‘People who call this drug recreational haven’t seen the harm that psychosis and other cannabis-related conditions can do, and the costs that heap on our health service and society more generally.
‘We aren’t just talking about ‘a bit of weed’ anymore, this does the same harm as crack and heroin.
‘That’s why we need the penalties for this illegal gateway drug to match those of class A substances.’
Liberal parents who let their children smoke cannabis are warned that the drug is causing up to a THIRD of psychosis cases in London and strong ‘skunk’ can cause schizophrenia-like symptoms
Sir Robin Murray has sounded the alarm over the use of highly-potent ‘skunk’
Expert said drug is behind 30 per cent of his psychosis patients in south London
King’s College London professor runs clinic dedicated to psychosis caused by cannabis
Highly-potent cannabis is not being taken seriously enough by some liberal-minded parents, who would rather see their teens smoke pot than drink alcohol, a top psychologist has warned.
Sir Robin Murray, 77, a professor of Psychiatric Research at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), King’s College London, said around a third of the psychosis patents he sees at his practice in south London are caused by use of high-strength skunk.
The expert said the cases mostly involve young people, who often suffer from debilitating paranoia and hallucinations. (continue reading here)
This Many People Getting ‘High’ is a New Low for Britain (Watch Now)
DCC breaks $1 billion mark in amount of illegal cannabis seized just over a year after consolidation
Aug 25, 2022
Recent enforcement activities in Los Angeles and Riverside Counties have officially pushed the Department of Cannabis Control over the $1 billion mark for illegal cannabis seized from illicit operations.
This important milestone was reached through close collaboration with local, state, and federal partners and furthers California’s efforts to go after activities that harm communities and the environment, including water theft, threats of violence, elder abuse, and human trafficking to name a few. These operations and the products they produce threaten consumer safety and the vitality of legal and compliant licensees.
Over the last 13 months, the Department’s law enforcement team has led and assisted other agencies in the service of 232 search warrants, seized more than half a million pounds of illegal product, and eradicated over 1.4 million cannabis plants. This effort has removed more than $1 billion worth of potentially harmful and often untested cannabis products from the market and eliminated 120 illegal firearms from the hands of criminal enterprises. The team has also recovered $2.3 million in illegally obtained assets.
These enforcement activities are important in eliminating unfair competition, protecting natural resources, and safeguarding our communities. However, this represents only one part of California’s larger strategy to help create a safe, sustainable, and equitable legal cannabis market. (For more – Department of Cannabis Control)
So, now we are ‘lauding ‘enforcement’!
Hmmm, only just prior to unleashing this insanity, the pot-profit-prognosticators were decrying the ‘insane wastefulness’ of enforcing ‘stupid’ laws against cannabis users, but now?
One could write an essay on the hypocrisy, fabrication, prevarication and bald face lies of this #addiction for profit #cannabisindustry, but this latest iteration of #ReeferMadness will blind all marijuana sycophants to the reality of this human, environmental and fiscal wrecking ball.
This culture destroying experiment is only going to bring more grief, especially as dependency grows; and along with the growing evidence-revealed genotoxicity of this #Weed our culture is going to suffer for decades to come.
Worries over excessive use is why states historically have restricted cigarette and alcohol advertising, even while indulging in those things has remained perfectly legal. Reasonable people have understood the right of adults to imbibe or smoke in moderation while simultaneously recognizing the societal dangers of overindulgence. An entire public health system has devoted extraordinary amounts of attention to finding that balance, to keeping people as safe as possible and keeping adult substances away from kids.
But when Michigan and Illinois decided to legalize recreational cannabis use, the debate mostly centered not on what might happen to demand but on the benefits of decriminalization and new tax revenues.
And as retail licenses proliferated in those and other states, most of the journalistic ink and political blather was expended on the issue of whether the right people were getting a big enough piece of the lucrative retailing pie. Far more stories were written about the equity (or lack thereof) of the licensing processes than what this new retail industry could potentially do to the consuming citizenry of the affected states.
From the governor’s offices on down, the rhetoric was that people are buying, selling and using anyway. Better for them to do so legally, keeping them away from the criminal justice system and, at the same time, bringing in cash to state coffers; in 2019, Illinois revenues from the new industry were projected to be $500 million per year or more.
“As the first state in the nation to fully legalize adult-use cannabis through the legislative process, Illinois exemplifies the best of democracy: a bipartisan and deep commitment to better the lives of all of our people,” was the statement Gov. J.B. Pritzker made during a signing ceremony in 2019. “Legalizing adult-use cannabis brings an important and overdue change to our state, and it’s the right thing to do.”
Underneath that rhetoric was the assumption that the demand was already out there and that here was a way to manage it more efficiently and keep people out of the criminal justice pipeline: in Pritzker’s words, to “better the lives of all of our people.” He did not often address the possibility of newly legal marketing and promotion bringing about a huge spike in demand. In fairness to Pritzker, very few governors in legalizing states did.
But there’s now substantial evidence that demand has indeed increased. Massively.
A new study supported by the National Institutes for Health has found that marijuana and hallucinogen use among young adults reached an all-time high last year. According to the study, the proportion of young adults who reported using marijuana reached 43% in 2021, a big increase from 34% in 2016 and just 29% in 2011. Among college students, it was even higher.
Almost 30% of young adults said they had used weed in the last month, as compared with just 21% in 2016 and 17% in 2011. Perhaps most striking of all, 11% of young adults reported using marijuana every day, compared with 8% in 2016 and 6% in 2011.
It’s also worth noting that the study was based on 2021; those billboards on the interstates have proliferated far more in 2022 as new dispensaries have opened in cities big and small, so it’s logical to assume that usage also has further increased this year.
Is all this increased weed use by young people harmful?
California Cannabis Markets: Why Industry-Friendly Regulation Is Not Good Public Health
WARNING! “Despite the evidence of negative effects, particularly on vulnerable populations, the balance of cannabis regulation in California, as well as most states in the US, favors industry-friendly regulations rather than true public health protections beyond those gains achieved by eliminating prohibition.”
“Now, more than ever, where states decide not only to decriminalize but also to permit cannabis commerce, it is imperative to ensure that legal access is in fact safe and does not promote more dangerous products that undermine our public health goals. We are still learning what the best practices are for cannabis, but the science is clear from decades of lessons from tobacco and alcohol research that weak safeguards negatively influence public health and do not bode well for the mental and physical well-being of the next generation. Without robust oversight of what industry is intentionally putting in its products (beyond testing for unintentional contaminants) and strict limits on high-potency products, the cannabis industry will continue to evolve in ways inconsistent with the public health.”
Is anyone listening over the ‘din’ of pro-pot propaganda? A ‘stoned’ populace and a cashed up Pot Oligarch Tyranny (I’ll let you decipher the obvious) are a perfect recipe for continuing this #publichealth disaster. However, it is only the sustainably employed that pay their taxes, and those are being ever move consumed by the harms of this #cannabisindustry and its #toxic #cannabisculture