Who Got Arrested in the Mendocino National Forest?

Kym Kemp / Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011 @ 8 a.m. /  marijuana

Mexican cartels or homegrown hoodlums or…? The question of whether the marijuana grows on public lands are manned by Mexican cartels or if those assumptions are based on racist stereotypes is one that has been tossed among locals and even the national media. The recent blitzkrieg of marijuana gardens in the Mendocino National Forest by a variety of federal, state, and county agencies (Operation Full Court Press) offers an opportunity to inform this debate, and make more rational decisions on how to combat a  crime that most of the American public and the local folk wish to see stopped now.

With 132 growers arrested, the opportunity to assess the home addresses of those captured offers valuable data.  Unfortunately, this mass of agencies is difficult to gather information from.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  I’ve searched the internet.  No luck.  I’ve put out questions to CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) officials and received no answer.  However, at least our local Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman did his best to answer my questions. He said,

 As for the arrest statistics, they will not be available anytime soon because of several reasons:

1) Federal arrests are only reported when charges are filed (sometimes 2 years later) [I know I’m not patient but this would strain even Mother Theresa!]

2) Non-federal arrests went to one of the six county jails, depending upon where the arrest was physically made. I am not aware of any single piece of paper that has all of the arrests on it (yet).

I will “guess-timate that the final stat sheet with be ready in 4 weeks but this will NOT have the Federal stats on it.

To answer one of your questions, there were very few local arrests made IN the forest but my bet is that because the investigations are still in process, there may be local arrests as we continue to turn over stones.

I appreciate that these pieces of information are not immediately available but the more we know statistically about who is likely to grow on public lands, the more we can understand and combat the problem.  This recent press release announces that at least 14 of those arrested were “foreign nationals detained on administrative immigration violations”  but other foreign nationals are facing federal or state charges (ie this case in Tehama County where two men from Mexico are the first to be prosecuted as the result of Operation Full Court Press.)

Are most of those arrested foreign nationals?  Are most local growers looking for places to grow that aren’t likely to be tied to them legally?  Are many US Citizens from other areas looking to exploit the rugged backwoods country of Northern California and then return to their own homes? The approaches to ridding the land held in common for all of us from damaging grows could vary depending on who is there.  Let’s get those answers available and allow us all a chance to hash out solutions.


  • this is an interesting question.
  • I’ve always wondered this question myself.

    In the 80’s, the sheriffs would scare people by saying “it used to be just a few hippies up in the woods, but now it’s Vietnam vets and survivalists with guns and booby traps.” But they never showed any evidence of these traps, and the guns were mostly the hunting weapons commonly owned in rural areas.

    In the 90’s, the sheriffs would say “it used to be just a few hippies, but now its organized crime coming in from other parts of the country.” But they never did any perp walks of these supposed crime bosses.

    In the 00’s, the bogeyman became Mexican cartels. Again, there was little if any evidence produced to support this allegation.

    Seems to me, back when it WAS just a couple of hippies growing for themselves, the sheriffs didn’t exactly leave them alone.

    To be clear, I don’t support growing on national forest land. These are areas held in common for the good of all, not to be exploited for the profit of a few, whoever they might be.

    But it seems clear that growing on public land began in northern California in the 1980’s because anti-piracy laws had been used against those who had been growing on private land, leading the surviving growers to turn to land that could not be seized.

    Yet another argument for legalization in my book.
  • I read an article a while back that talked about how it isn’t the cartels directly behind these national forest grows. It suggested that current (and even past) members of cartels do it on their own - without any sanction from the cartels themselves.
    With their connections they have no problem selling it. According to the latest fed figures, the cartels have established “outposts” in all 50 states. Personally, I have trouble wrapping my mind around a Hispanic group establishing a presence in Alaska.
    Back to the big grows in our forests:
    Thus far the majority of people arrested in national forests have been of Hispanic origin (past and present). That’s a fact. Not a sterotype. The point is most of the workers on these grows are desperate people with families doing what they have to do to survive.
    Perhaps when all of the figures are in on these latest raids we’ll find out more. My guess is that when that magic day arrives and someone is able to count (and locate where all of the arrestees have gone) this trend will probably hold up.
    I’m not saying locals (or even out-of-staters) don’t grow in national forests. They do. Here in California (with a majority Hispanic population) it’s no surprise Hispanics seem more involved (odds would almost assure that) because they are living below middle class standards in our society.
  • It almost sounds like Sheriff Allman is suggesting that some locals hire Mexicans to run their illegal grows…that not all “cartel” grows are run by cartels. Or maybe he’s just trying to keep local growers from relaxing too much.
  • Awesome reporting, Kym, as usual.

    The whiff I get is that the federales have found some suggestive local connections in the forest. Matthew, the North Coast is only now integrating into the rest of California, and one measure of that integration is a wave of exploited Mexicans moving north. They’re big in Mendo, and multiplying in Humboldt in recent years. They’re definitely employed by locals, whoever else hires them. For some reason the feds till now have said empty tortilla bags must come from Mexican cartels. But I can lead them to a half-dozen local taquerias, for a reasonable snitch fee.
  • Fiance here: I think it is probably a combination of both. Cartel ties and local ties. There are old ties to the cartels from years back. Where do y’all think all that cocaine came from you were talking about in an earlier post? It may not all be “Mexican” cartels…it could be from other Central and South American countries as well. I do think locals hire the hispanics to fade their own heat. Throwing them to the wolves as it were. Either way it needs to be kept out of the forests. If you growing there you are scum, just like if your growing and on welfare you are scum.
  • Stop the drug wars. Legalize nature now for gods sake!
  • In response to Harry
    Legalize nature should be a slogan. I see bumper stickers and t-shirts with pictures of pot on them followed by LEGALIZE NATURE.
  • In response to Kym Kemp
    Cocaine and heroin come from the earth.
  • In response to Anne on a Mouse
    I know it is unpopular an stand but those should be legal, too. Money should go towards education and rehab not incarceration and enforcement.
  • In response to Kym Kemp
    I agree.
  • In response to Anne on a Mouse
    Actually coca plants and opium poppies come from the earth. Cocaine and heroine are chemically altered alkaloids and there is a big difference. Coca chewed by those living in the Andes helps with altitude sickness and endurance with no ill effect to my knowledge. Opium is a pain reliever and was used medicinally. pre-Harrison Act. Snorting or shooting cocaine or heroine is different. Then there is Oxycontin that is legal, is that a good drug? Alcohol is legal, is that a good drug? Just being legal and making the pharmaceutical companies tons of money is not always a good thing. Bottom line, plants are different from pharmaceuticals in my opinion. Wasn’t that long ago when the Harrison Act was imposed on society. Marijuana was made illegal as an anti-Mexican propaganda ploy by government and the public was fed propaganda like Reefer Madness. That’s my opinion at least. LEGALIZE NATURE does not mean legalize cocaine or heroine. It does mean legalize coca plants, opium poppies and cannabis though.
  • Harrison Narcotics Tax Act background propaganda as described in Wikipedia is pretty, well not interesting exactly, but pretty disturbing actually as it was racist propaganda directed at White Fears of other racial groups. I’m not saying there was not problem of addiction with opium, but treatment facilities would seem to be a cheaper and more sane approach than just building more prisons and incarcerating more people. The inmate population has become a cheap (slave) labor force for fighting fires and other public benefit jobs. In Arizona prison inmates (slaves) are being considered for field work picking fruit for private farmers and the “privatization” of prisons to provide slave labor should alarm everyone in this country in my opinion.
  • In response to Harry
    Legalizing coca and opium but not cocaine and heroin would not change anything as far as the black market goes. We need to legalize it all to change things. Whether its “Nature” or not is beside the point.
  • In response to Anne on a Mouse
    Laws are passed by Government to create criminals which only serves the Prison Industry. And the citizen’s get “Nickle and Dimed 2011 edition (gotta get and read this book myself)” to pay to put their relatives in Prison. How much money does it cost to keep someone a Political Prisoner in America? Why not just spend the Prison Industrial Complex money for Jobs for People; instead of passing laws to make citizens in America Political Prisoners? Legalize what? Freedom in America? Not gonna happen with fear being spread by the Mainstream Media to keep Americans Scared of Freedom. If Drug Abuse is a problem, fund drug treatment centers, NOT Prisons! Private Prisons coming to a neighborhood near all of us sooner than we think, I think. Like already exist in Arizona.


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