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Aug 7, 2012 Comments Off on Budget Cuts Allow Mexican Cartels to Grow Pot in U.S. Parks Pat Dollard

Excerpted from THE BLAZE: Ultra-violent Mexican drug cartels are growing marijuana in our national parks and forests across 16 U.S. states, and our federal government doesn’t care. At least, that’s how it comes across when one sees that President Obama’s proposed 2013 budget cuts the National Guard’s Counterdrug program almost in half.

One might ask, “What does the National Guard have to do with Mexican cartels and marijuana?” It’s true that the Guard is known to most Americans as the soldiers who provide assistance during natural disasters and riots, and many also know that thousands of Guard members have been deployed to our southwest border to assist the U.S. Border Patrol. But what a lot of people don’t know is that our National Guard is the spearhead for detecting and eradicating marijuana plantations—sometimes containing over 100,000 plants, worth up to $3,000 each—created and heavily guarded by Mexican cartels on US public lands.

There are generally two kinds of people who grow marijuana in the US. First, there are Americans, who cultivate it indoors or in relatively small patches for personal use or for sale at a dispensary in states where medicinal use is legal. Broadly speaking, this kind of marijuana is more specialized, of higher quality, and more expensive than bud grown in mass quantities.

That’s where the second group comes in. Mexican drug cartels are like the Walmart of pot growers; they grow marijuana in plantations that cover an estimated two million acres of U.S. forest, and are easily the biggest supplier of the finished product to American consumers. While mass outdoor-grown marijuana is cheaper than its indoor cousin, the quality is lower—something that doesn’t matter much to a cash-strapped college student. While medicinal marijuana is legal under state law in 16 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia, its manufacture and use is still illegal under federal law. If the federal government decides to investigate and prosecute dispensaries and the growers who supply them, it’s usually the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and local law enforcement who deal with them.

Marijuana grows being tended and defended by heavily armed Mexican cartel employees, however, are a different story. The grow sites are usually well hidden in the interior parts of parks and forests. Aerial reconnaissance and a trained and experienced eye are the surest ways to find them, although hikers have been known to stumble upon them on occasion. The National Guard has the helicopters and surveillance equipment and trained eyes to get this done.

They can’t do it alone, of course. Since the National Guard has no arrest authority, they rely on the cooperation of state and local law enforcement agencies to help them. Likewise, those agencies rely heavily on National Guard experience and equipment they don’t have. The cuts Obama is proposing for the next fiscal year are eliminating helicopters as an option for many states. They’re not being evenly distributed, with Oregon getting a 66 percent cut and Kentucky a 70 percent cut—two states where cartel-run marijuana grows are rampant.

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