SACRAMENTO, CA — In the second escelation of the fed’s War on Medical Marijuana in California this week, the US Attorney for Central California is warning of an impending federal crackdown of medical marijuana growers in the Central Valley. It comes following the announcement from the Southern California US Attorney’s office that more than 50 medical marijuana dispensaries must close within 2 weeks.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner plans to tour agricultural areas with representatives from the Fresno County Farm Bureau and the Kern County Sherriff’s Department to warn agricultural landowners that they could lose their property or be prosecuted if they permit large marijuana plantations on their land. Wagner said he plans to only visit those landowners who allow their properties to be used for medical marijuana cultivation.
“Those farmers who plant large crops of marijuana or who lease their land to people who do are risking forfeiture of their lands or, in the egregious cases, criminal prosecution,” Wagner said.
In the Central Valley, medical marijuana growing has become almost as mainstream as the industrial farming in the area as farmers grow marijuana in plain sight under local and state medical marijuana laws. Although many medical marijuana growers lease land from existing farms, some small independent farmers have supplemented their income by adding medical marijuana into their crop rotation.
But the Department of Justice sees it differently. Wagner claims that medical marijuana is “a hazard to people in those farming communities.”
Ryan Jacobsen of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, who will be joining Wagner in his tour of the area, agrees, claiming that residents are endangered by the large-scale medical marijuana grows.
“We’re not talking about backyard size. One bust was 55 acres. There’s many, many 20-acre parcels down here that are being fully grown with marijuana. It’s probably on a scale much, much larger than most people are familiar with,” Jacobsen said. “There’s guard towers that have gone up in the middle to protect the grows.”
“It looks like it’s mostly outsiders. It’s not most of the mainstream farmers and ranchers who have been there for generations,” Jacobsen added.
One Central Valley farmer, who asked not to be identified, believes that authorities are overreacting. “My family has farmed this land for three generations. We grow [medical marijuana] in about a tenth of our fields,” he said. “It’s just a cash crop to us. And a good one, too,” adding that growing marijuana has helped his family farm rely less on government subsidies, which are paid to farmers to grow less profitable crops.
When asked about Jacobsen’s claim of guard towers protecting marijuana fields, the farmer replied “We’ve been patrolling our fields with a shotgun long before we had marijuana growing here.”