Mexican drug lords "supersize" pot growing on public lands

Secret marijuana farms are bigger, more numerous and more sophisticated-

It amazes me that it is still illegal, and this is the ever worsening result on our public lands.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the drug cartels are illegally lobbying members of Congress (bribe) to keep it illegal so to maintain profits. There has to be some reasonable explanation for keeping this failed policy in place.

Drug gangs taking over US public lands. By Alicia A. Caldwell and Manuel Valdes. AP





  1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    As someone who has never used drugs and doesn’t to intend to, I think that the so-called war on drugs is a failure and needs to end. I think that we should consider decriminalizing all drugs and stop filling our jails with people that should be treated as addicts in need of help rather than criminals to be jailed. We are destroying our neighbors to the south with our demand for illegal drugs which would end if it were legal to produce them here. We need a new approach to the way we deal with drugs and drug users of all kinds. If drugs were available at the liquor store, there would be no incentive for pushers to addict others in order create new paying customers.

  2. Richie, Giallanzo,NJ Avatar
    Richie, Giallanzo,NJ

    To LT;
    great read,something tells me it is more profit for some people in high positions to have it this way. If it is legal it takes away a big amount of money under the table. Having pot sold in liquor stores at a high prices takes out the crime and the middle man. More important it takes away the border war which helps us deal with other threats to our country.

  3. Mike Avatar

    Ralph – Marijuana is kept illegal because people who smoke it tend to be more liberal in their politics. It’s a “drug” that makes you question societal structure more often, which is not what industry heads want people to be doing. They want us to be fueling up on coffee, lusting after material items, working like the devil and then killing brain cells with alcohol so we forget our pain. This makes for busy little bees who focus on producing, not philosophy.

    It really is pointless to spend any more money fighting it. The war on drugs is huge failure.

  4. Nature rules Avatar
    Nature rules

    I bet there would be a lot less alcoholics if Pot was legalized. Alcohol is the worse drug ever, yet it is available to just about anyone at any age. They will never outlaw Alcohol, just like they never will legalize Pot. as far as coke, crack, heroin and whatever drugs are out there now, those should be kept as they are, and when some one gets busted, they should go to jail and rehab. and if pot is legalized, it will cost a lot more. I used to live in CA and had a medical card to go to the dispensary, and only bought once, it cost to much and not very good either. the stuff I got was a lot cheaper and better!

  5. timz Avatar

    Just think what legalizing pot would do for Twinkie sales.

  6. JB Avatar

    Reminds me of the Onion’s headline from a few years back:

    “Drugs Win War on Drugs.”

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    It seems to me that conservatives (libertarians anyway), middle-of-roaders and progressives have all pretty much abandoned the “killer weed” mentality.

    Let’s not let the drug lords continue to force the marijuana prohibition policy on us just so they can make billions in their illegal enterprise!! 😉

  8. timz Avatar

    A serious problem is they leave the forest a mess when they’re done.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Terrible and meth is perhaps worse.

  9. Nathan Hobbs Avatar

    I always worry about coming down a obscure road alone somewhere to find myself in the middle of an operation like this.

  10. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    The reason I have developed an interest in criminal drug gang infiltration and abused of wild areas is that it is a conservation problem–the damage being done to wild areas, especially along the Mexican border and in California, and even here in Wyoming as meth labs go mobile in the open spaces of the State, by the drug trade is little different ecologically and biologically than the damage that livestock, mining, logging, and water development did in the West over a century ago. It was all unrestrained destruction to develop natural resources and as it become profitable it also became socially violent as cartels took over production and transport, so range wars erupted to fight out who would control it all. What we have now as a result of the range wars are the oligarchies that run politics in our respective states and serve as the primary obstacles to conservation. Isn’t the same thing happening with the Mexican cartels around Tiajuana and Juarez and Nogales? The drug trade is no different from the livestock industry or gold mining.

    While I agree that criminalizing the drug trade creates enormous social problems, and that it would make sense to decriminalize drugs, I’m not sure it’s what we ought to be discussing here. Discuss it on FireDogLake.


    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      The drug trade is equally strong on both sides of the border too. It’s just that necessary tactics in the United States dictate fewer dead bodies.

  11. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    I don’t worry so much about dead bodies as I do about dead wildlife. Were I in law enforcement, I’d think like Sun Tzu and think about ways to encourage these guys to kill each other off. The fences and the walls and the expensive technology are ineffective in the long run and themselves do tremendous ecological damage.

    About oligarchies, anyone who’s studied political anthropology will tell you that the state begins in banditry. That is, drug lords today, congressmen and governors tomorrow. Just as a century ago it was cattle baron one day, statesman the next. And land and wildlife still lose out.


    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      I agree, Robert.

      In fact my point is that both sides of the border are now pretty much controlled by the drug cartels. It’s just that their method of operation in the United States dictates less killing.

  12. JimT Avatar

    The genie is slowly being let out of the bottle here in Colorado in the guise of medical pot growers and dispensaries. The state is trying to come up with a way to regulate the sudden explosion, but they are here to stay, I believe. And as more acceptance of their presence occurs, the rest of it will follow. There was an article in the paper this morning that Boulder will realize over 400 grand in fees and license charges, etc. from the dispensaries already in the city. That looks pretty damned good right now, and if de-criminalized and taxed….If ARN_OLD…wanted to solve California’s budget issues…there you go. ;*) I have not read about large grass growing operations in the NFs here…too cold, I suspect. But hey, put up a small solar farm, a few greenhouses..and voila!…The main way they find pot growing operations here are power bills; with solar…who would know?

    Grass isn’t the problem, It is meth, plain and simple. Most addictive drug there is, and the crime that goes along with the industry is sucking millions from the law enforcement budgets. Materials are easy to get, and it is easy, though risky to make.

  13. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    JimT and Ralph

    I had the misfortune of living in Casper WY for a year in 1997. While I was there it seemed a week didn’t go by that a meth lab blew up in a house somewhere in North Casper, which is on the other side of the tracks in the town. The environmental contamination from the chemicals is extraordinary, as I’m sure you’re aware.

    The problem is that meth production in Wyoming is moving out of the towns and the houses into the back country, any place where a two track exists to take the producer and his F350 diesel into the millions of gulches and canyons around the State to set up a lab. Mostly BLM land so far–thank goodness for wilderness or roadless areas. Law enforcement is virtually impossible. There is of course no self-regulation of the use of the myriad bad chemicals that make up meth and these chemicals are ending up on the ground and no doubt in the groundwater. In a sense, the pollution from meth production is as bad as that produced by mining.

    The problem I see with legalizing drugs, even grass–which I do support, by the way, because it is beyond the ability and budgets of law enforcement to control–is that drugs are in fact very profitable and consequently that profitability has political impact on our ability to regulate it for environmental and conservation purposes, much less social welfare purposes. Further, legal booze and cigarettes haven’t eliminated criminal interest in non-tax paid booze and cigarettes, since the legal approach is to raise taxes on these sin resources to great heights such that smuggling is profitable just by offering lower prices (e.g., cigarettes in Canada).

    The real problem for conservation from drugs is the profitability and the resulting political corruption and criminality that comes from the profitability, legal or illegal. Just as there is a livestock oligarchy, I can see a drug oligarchy developing from legalizing drugs. Criminal minds are not minds that are concerned with the common interest and the public good, regardless of the type of crime involved.

    I for one don’t know how to deal with this problem. It’s capitalism in the raw–just like other harmful trades, such as the international arms trade. Shall we discuss sometime the environmental impacts of the unbelievably profitable arms trade? No different for the environment from the problems caused by the drug cartels controlling both sides of the US Mexican border, dead bodies or no.

    The social problem is capitalism, which is a great evil, but the moral problem is fundamentally a biological one–we’re little more than greedy chimps who can’t keep our fingers out of the gourd-trap full of shiny things. Unfortunately, our intelligence in dealing with the traps that have the things we lust for is what has mired us in the bigger trap of long-term survival.


  14. Virginia Avatar

    As the daughter of an alcoholic and someone who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, I am an advocate of the legalization of marijuana. After reading this account of what is going on in the national forests, I wonder why we cannot come to the conclusion that we need to legalize pot. It is disgusting what we have come to with the stupid war on drugs. People can drink themselves into oblivion, drive drunk and kill people and they get a slap on the wrist. I am so tired of reading about drivers who have just received their 10th DUI. This needs to change and we need to stop encouraging this assault on our lands. Many physicians would promote medical marijuana to help people with chronic pain if only we could get over this fixation on marijuana!

  15. monty Avatar

    The 3/1/10 issue of High Country News has a very depressing article titled “The War Next Door” that goes into some detail about this issue that includes murder, drugs & illegal immigration. Don’t read THIS ARTICLE if you don’t want to be depressed!!
    What has to wonder as to why we have troops in the Middle east when the REAL WAR IN ON THE MEXICAN BORDER & GETTING WORSE BY THE DAY
    As I do a lot of bushwacking in the national forest, I better keep my eyes open..

  16. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Charles Bowden’s article in High Country News to which Monty refers makes the accurate point that the war on drugs has been very successful in one sense–it’s good for businesses and bureaucracies associated with the war on drugs. Once again, it’s capitalism and totalitarianism in the raw. Good for the elites, horrible for everyone else. Welcome to the essence of Ayn Rand and Milt Friedman’s free-market illusions.


  17. JimT Avatar

    Monty, if you are bushwacking in the in the California state and national forests, I would be very careful indeed. There was a story a few months back..maybe it was the HCN article, about some government workers who accidentally ran across a planting site in California, and ended up being let go, or escaping, but remained in hiding for days for fear that the drug folks would change their minds.

    I imagine the garbage from the pot operations resemble the leftovers from a rock, human waste, etc. The meth stuff scared the bejesus out of me the more I read about it. I also troubled a bit that one of the TV stations has a hit show about a high school teacher turned meth lord, and the portrayal is sympathetic at times. Sends the wrong message, I think, but there is no accounting for what is popular on TV.

    I think eventually all of the ingredients in meth will be tagged somehow to foster traceability, and some things should be removed from general sale, and conditions imposed. I think it is that serious of a problem. I do agree with RH…it is the tremendous profits that keep it going.

  18. Linda Hunter Avatar

    The biggest worry to me is that in one more way our public lands are suffering. . like we need that. The law enforcement agencies including the forest service, fish and game etc. do not have the manpower to even know what goes on in the backcountry at all . . they would fly helicopters into the FC to collar and count wolves but they will let giant, dangerous drug growing farms shoot people from trees with AK47’s and run into trip wires . .one of which I found that led to a loaded bow and arrow which would be released if I had stepped on the wire. . . but I am glad to know they have the manpower to take of of the biggest threats like wolves, bears, cougars and coyotes.(read this as sarcastic please) Perhaps wildlife services should be called upon to get rid of drug farms. They have a lot of technology for getting rid of things don’t they?

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