What Humboldt County Sheriffs Learned From Al Capone
There is an interesting article out this week from in the USA TODAY about how Humboldt county sheriffs are trying a new approach to catching illegal marijuana growers up in the hills of the Emerald Triangle. The frustration grows from the fact that the Humboldt county sheriffs can find the illegal grow areas with helicopters and GPS programs. Prosecuting them under criminal law has proven tricky due to the “donation” system that California growers can operate under. To explain, the article states:
California has the country’s largest medical marijuana marketplace, with billions of virtually tax-free dollars flowing from growers to distributors to co-ops that operate on a “donation” system. Drivers then deliver high-quality pot to customers' homes or offices, within minutes.
The system gives growers and users a level of legal protection from state criminal laws that would otherwise make possession of large amounts of pot a felony. And as in other states, including Colorado, many growers use the cover of the medical marijuana system to grow cannabis they'll then illegally ship across state lines.
Some of the Humboldt County industry is legal, at least under state law. Much is illegal. And all of it violates federal law.
Since the police haven’t had much luck slowing down the flow of marijuana around Humboldt and the Emerald Triangle, they are trying a new tactic. Instead of going for legal or criminal prosecution, they are going for environment crimes and penalties against illegal growers.
Frustrated by their inability to make a significant dent in the flow of illegal pot, police and regulators in Northern California are increasingly turning to environmental and zoning laws. The fact is, few marijuana growers bother to comply with basic rules governing electrical wiring, construction permits or water supplies.
The violations are glaring. Pot growers steal water, illegally cut down and clear forested areas, build unpermitted greenhouses and dump massive amounts of fertilizer on their crops, police say. Now growers find themselves targeted by cops accompanied by code inspectors. While criminal cases can take months or years to wend their way through the court system, civil violations are far easier to prove.
The county has already seen progress in approaching the growers for environmental offenses instead of criminal offenses.
Using environmental and business-regulation laws to fight these operations has local lawmakers hopeful. But even with better tools at hand, they face the daunting and possibly insurmountable challenge of better-funded growers.
The new county rules, authorized by a broader statewide law, require growers to register industrial-scale cannabis operations and to comply with basic environmental regulations, the same kinds of rules that conventional farmers or orchards have to follow.
It is a pretty crafty move and helps the environment. Do you remember how the FEDS got Al Capone? It wasn’t a murder charge or racketeering charge; it was income tax evasion. They were able to get Capone’s accountant to talk and they put him away for income tax evasion. He later died in prison due to syphilis.
The Humboldt sheriffs can’t get criminal charges to stick so they are bringing in the environmental police to give out hefty fines that don’t have to go before a judge.
You didn't get busted for illegal weed, you got busted for illegal water usage and removing trees. Pay up.
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