County seeks aid to com­bat pot farms

Ripon Bulletin - - Local/state -

YREKA (AP) — A Cal­i­for­nia state se­na­tor has asked Gov. Jerry Brown to help a ru­ral county deal with a dra­matic pro­lif­er­a­tion of il­le­gal mar­i­juana farms by declar­ing a state of emer­gency.

Siskiyou County su­per­vi­sors earlier declared a lo­cal emer­gency after the sher­iff said his depart­ment is out­manned by the il­le­gal farm­ers, who some res­i­dents com­plain are wreck­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and at­tract­ing vi­o­lent crime. Emer­gency dec­la­ra­tions give gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials flex­i­bil­ity to quickly re­act to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and other catas­tro­phes and can lead to grants and other fi­nan­cial help.

Repub­li­can state Sen. Ted Gaines, who rep­re­sents the county, said on Wed­nes­day that he for­mally asked the gov­er­nor for the emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion to com­pel state of­fi­cials to help Sher­iff Jon Lopey in crack­ing down on the il­le­gal farms. Gaines said that could in­clude mak­ing the Cal­i­for­nia Na­tional Guard avail­able to help.

Gaines re­cently toured the county by he­li­copter with the sher­iff, who says there are more than 2,000 il­le­gal farms in the county along the Cal­i­for­nia-Ore­gon state line about 300 miles north of San Fran­cisco.

“The grows are vast and nu­mer­ous, and it’s in­dica­tive of a com­mu­nity that is over­run by un­law­ful be­hav­ior, and of a crim­i­nal class that is in com­plete con­tempt of the law,” Gaines said.

Kelly Hus­ton, the deputy di­rec­tor of the gov­er­nor’s Of­fi­cer of Emer­gency Ser­vices, said the agency is re­view­ing the se­na­tor’s re­quest. Hus­ton said there are ways state of­fi­cials can help even if the gov­er­nor doesn’t de­clare an emer­gency.

Lopey said the county is “over­whelmed” by the il­le­gal farm­ers, many of whom he says live in tents and other tem­po­rary shel­ters and some are di­vert­ing streams, us­ing il­licit fer­til­iz­ers and de­grad­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. Lopey said three farm­ers died of car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing caused by faulty heaters last win­ter.

Lopey last month worked with fed­eral of­fi­cials to ar­rest two farm­ers who he says of­fered him a $1 mil­lion bribe to shield their plants and work­ers from law en­force­ment scru­tiny.

Lured by in­ex­pen­sive land and pri­vacy, mar­i­juana farm­ers are flock­ing to ru­ral coun­ties in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia seek­ing to cash in on grow­ing de­mand in the state and across the coun­try.

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