Mexican drug cartels engage in marijuana cultivation on public land in the United States
Marijuana cultivation on public land in the U.S. is a multibillion-dollar business, run by Mexican drug cartels and guarded by heavily armed members of U.S.-based street gangs and Mexican nationals, says the head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
"Our national treasures are now ground zero for international and domestic drug cultivation and trafficking," said drug czar John P. Walters. "We must push back against the invasion of foreign drug-trafficking organizations through increased law-enforcement collaboration, enhanced intelligence and expanded investigations to reclaim our public lands."
Mr. Walters made his comments last week during Operation Alesia, a multiagency marijuana-eradication initiative in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the largest national forest in California.
Coordinated by the Shasta County Sheriff's Office with the support of the California National Guard, the weeklong operation involved 17 federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies.
"America's public lands are under attack," Mr. Walters said. "Instead of being appreciated as national treasures, they are being exploited and destroyed by foreign drug-trafficking organizations and heavily armed Mexican marijuana cartels."
ONDCP spokesman Stephen E. Schatz said violent Mexican drug cartels construct, operate and manage 80 percent to 90 percent of all U.S.-based marijuana plantations — most of which are in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington and West Virginia.
Mr. Schatz said those hired to tend and guard them do so with high-tech equipment and state-of-the-art weapons.
He said California's public lands are exceptionally vulnerable, adding that nine out of the top 10 marijuana-producing sites are found in that state and that 57 percent of all marijuana produced on public land in the U.S. is grown in California.
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