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For those of you who have paid attention to my activities since I've been a member, you'll notice that I am an active researcher when I'm investigating abandoned railroads, preferring to go out and see for myself where things used to be. Something I just ran across, just reminded me of how dangerous it is. Seems that back in 2011, a city council member up in Fort Bragg was murdered in cold blood by some pot growers. Before I moved down here, an area that I would have loved to explore for the old steam train lines was the Cazadero area and the Magnesite RR, which I was warned about as the location of pot growers.

Its activity like this that brings to mind the old saying, pot smokers don't remember the brains they lost in their defence of their vice as "harmless".

Legislature approves bill to protect forests and forest users from criminal activity

AB 2284 goes to Gov as anniversary of shooting death of Jere Melo approaches

SACRAMENTO – The Legislature has given final approval to and sent to the governor a bill by Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D – North Coast) to give law enforcement tools to battle illegal drug operations, protecting environmentally sensitive forest lands and those who use them. AB 2284 goes to the governor for his signature nearly a year after the death of Ft. Bragg City Councilmember Jere Melo, who was killed when he stumbled on an illegal grow while inspecting forest lands near the city on Aug. 27, 2011.

“The best way to prevent illegal drug operations from damaging the environment and threatening those who use our forests is to stop these operations from being established in the first place,” Chesbro said. “This legislation gives law enforcement new tools to protect our public resource lands and private industrial timberland. AB 2284 also increases the financial penalties for conducting criminal enterprises on our forest lands to provide the funding needed to investigate these cases and clean up the environmental damage.”

AB 2284 allows law enforcement to stop and question drivers who are transporting in plain sight irrigation supplies – commonly used in illicit grows – over unpaved or gravel roads that run through specified resource lands. These include public lands and private Timber Preserve Zone forest lands of 50,000 acres or larger. Owners of TPZ lands of 2,500 acres or more can also opt in.

“I would like to thank Assemblymember Chesbro for authoring this bill and highlighting this huge environmental devastation that results from marijuana being grown in the forest,” said Madeline Melo, who started a foundation to protect forest lands in the name of her late husband. “Marijuana cultivation has caused large scale damage to wildlife and humans. While this bill is not the ultimate solution, it is a step in the process.

“My objective and the mission of the Jere Melo Foundation is not only to protect the environment and humans, but to ensure that nothing like what happened to my husband would happen to anyone else in the future. I hope to, once again, make the forest a safe place for people to do their jobs.”

Gov. Jerry Brown has until Sept. 30 to act on AB 2284.

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Comment by HUTCH 7.62 on June 23, 2013 at 9:30pm

One of the few good ideas I've heard from any of the state legislature in a very long time.

Comment by Jennifer on June 18, 2013 at 3:17pm

Hear, hear Bob!  Very well said.

Comment by Bob Cleek on June 16, 2013 at 6:46pm

I'll just close by saying that the environmental devastation caused by these covert "grows" on public lands (and sometimes on private lands without the owner's knowledge) cannot be tolerated.  Neither can people taking pot shots (an unintentional pun) at hikers, surveyors, and MOW gangs (there's your railroad connection) be at all tolerated.  That goes not only for marijuana growing, but also things like methamphetamine "cooking" and similar criminal activities.

I'd prefer to see my tax dollars spent on education, rather than enforcement.  Looking back on it, witness the tremendous reduction in tobacco smoking.  Remember when there were ashtrays on every restaurant table and people lit up without a second thought?  Tobacco is much more physically addicting than marijuana, yet within a generation, it's gone from being "sophisticated" to being "low class" and not at all attractive.  Not by outlawing it, but by educating kids from the minute they started school.

Comment by Andrew F. Laverdiere on June 16, 2013 at 3:29pm

Its not my intention to bring up political issues on a train forum unless they directly affect the operation of the railroads, which is a legitimate topic for the forum, but in my hobby of historical research, certain unpleasant realities intrude sometimes, beyond irate ranchers and legitimate property owners that don't really give a sh*t about your interest in history.

To add to what Bob says, the issue is actually an international problem, and can't really be dealt with on a state or local basis, and unless we see a resolution by state legislators to demand action from the Federal level, you give any local law enforcement no basis for effectively handling the situation, so in that way, Chesbro's legislation falls far short of addressing anything. Notwithstanding the goldfish bowl mentality of state elected officials and their reluctance to pressure Federal officials.

Ultimately, tackling this would require taking on international financial figures like George Soros, since the funding of drug legalization propositions and propaganda about "harm reduction" all start with him and his foundations, and the international financial institutions like HSBC that openly launder drug money, continuing their role as facilitators of crime since the days of the Opium Wars back in the 19th Century.

Anyways, back your regularly scheduled railroad forum. This is just my blog and thanks for contributing. There comes a time to tackle controversial subjects sometimes, even though I just seem like a guy who just pokes around forgotten and abandoned aspects of our past.

Comment by Chad Gustafson on June 16, 2013 at 2:39pm

 Correction : I agree with you wholeheartedly on it.*****

Comment by Chad Gustafson on June 16, 2013 at 2:38pm

You make some really good points, Mr. Cleek, and I myself am kind of torn on the subject.

Talking with a National Park Service LEO Ranger in Yosemite last week, he told me that the kidnapping  and forcing them to defend the crop is a larger problem then most realize, and is a very real problem. Don't ask me why or how, because I honestly have no idea.

He also said hes been fired on, in uniform, plenty of times before stumbling across small grows.

 It doesn't quite make sense to me either. 

Combating the problem is the hardest part. Theres no easy way to do it. 

Even legalization can be dangerous. Most of the fires we have been responding to lately have been marijuana grows, including one that injured a firefighter. Last year at my high school, I assisted local FD and PD in four accidents related with marijuana on campus, and those were just ones I came across. (Plenty more) Like I said, i'm torn on it.  

At the same time I don't want to get shot at out on a hike, or while on a train. 

I really don't want to turn this into a political forum like you said previously, either. Its just a very complex issue, and you know it does revolve around the railroad, especially here.

I went home a researched the bill to an extent, I gotta say I agree with wholeheartedly on it. 

Anyways, back to trains!

Comment by Bob Cleek on June 16, 2013 at 2:07pm

As a former peace officer and a life-long justice system professional, I certainly do understand the magnitude of the problem.  I also understand that Chesbro's bill, as described in the article, contributes nothing to enforcement efforts, if not actually hindering them, as I explained in my previous post.  It is, if reports are accurate, just a "feel good, look good, do nothing" bill.

Along with an increasing number of law enforcement professionals, I see criminalization and enforcement efforts directed at cannabis products to really operate more as artificial price supports for what is otherwise a relatively valueless commodity. (Anybody can grow it in their backyard, and by all indications, many do.)  So long as billions of taxpayer dollars are pumped into cannabis enforcement, the price of the stuff stays high and makes it worthwhile for the cartels to produce and market it.  The "War on Drugs" was, is, and always will be an abysmal failure, as was Prohibition before it, and only encourages organized crime activity, as did Prohibition before it.   Make no mistake about it, though, the cartels are well-diversified.  Marijuana is only maybe 20% of their profits, at best.  Most of their income comes from heroin, methamphetamine, and other criminal enterprises.  Eliminating all of their drug sales income would seriously impact them, but that is going to require a sea change in America's attitude and the end of our insatiable fascination with the recreational abuse of pharmaceuticals generally.  The cartels prosper because America buys their products.  Simple as that.

And, while the cartels are indeed kidnapping people for ransom money in Mexico, and have in the past forced peasant workers to tend marijuana crops in Mexico, and while I don't doubt that a number of undocumented Mexicans apprehended in connection with marijuana growing here may well have claimed to have been working involuntarily under duress as a defense to the crimes with which they were charged, all indications are that there is no truth to the assertion that "Mexicans are kidnapped in their country, shipped up here in the middle of the night, and told to work or they or their families will be killed, or to protect the grow at ALL costs necessary, or they or their families will be killed."   This seems to be, as so much else about the subject, simply another urban myth.  If you apply some critical thinking to the assertion, it becomes obvious that the cartels are growing marijuana here because it is easier than smuggling the bulky product across the border, what sense does it make to kidnap people and smuggle them across the border to grow it! There are plenty enough people in Mexico who would welcome the opportunity to have the cost of their being smuggled across the border paid for by the cartels in return for a few month's work camping out in a National Forest.  Now, sure, bad things might happen back home if they skipped out on that deal once they got here, but it isn't as if they are snatching people off the streets and smuggling them into the United States to grow dope.  That would be so much work and expense it totally defeats their purpose in growing her in the first place.  (Not to mention that a trunk load of marijuana doesn't kick the trunk lid and yell, "Help! Let me out! Let me out! when you drive it through US customs.)

No doubt about it... If marijuana weren't illegal, there wouldn't be much profit in growing it and there wouldn't be much profit in selling it, and there sure wouldn't be any profit in trying stop people from doing either.  You see, it's the growers, the dealers and the cops who all profit from marijuana prohibition.

Comment by Chad Gustafson on June 16, 2013 at 8:44am

You have to understand the immensity of the problem here.....Mexicans are kidnapped in their country, shipped up here in the middle of the night, and told to work or they or their families will be killed, or to protect the grow at ALL costs necessary, or they or their families will be killed. Not only that, but they have absolutely NO idea of where they are. Beyond just the plain illicit growth and danger of marijuana, and let me tell you, there are plenty of dangers, there are massive humans rights violations and cruelty associated with it. These grows, are just plain aweful.

California law essentually states right now no matter how much marajuana you have, as long as you have a medical card and no products (Like scales, large amounts of paper, large amounts of bags) to say you may be selling it, you are completely legal. Federal law says you can't have it at all. 

The problem is the law making it hard for law enforcement to do anything. When you roll up, even with  warrant, and find a couple hundred pounds of marijuana, growing in multiple rooms of a house, for one person? Even the lame man can see something is not right there.  But theres nothing law enforcement can do in a lot of circumstances. 

Comment by Mike Cook on June 16, 2013 at 1:55am

We have to start somewhere Bob.  Being a resident of Mendocino County myself (Redwood Valley), I am all for anything that will help end the growers crap!

Comment by Bob Cleek on June 14, 2013 at 5:30pm

Well, I'm no fan of pot plantations on public lands, but I'm afraid this sounds like another political grandstanding act and nothing more.  The usual routine is to propose a pointless bill that nobody's ever going to oppose and then slap yourself on the back for being "tough on crime" or whatever.  Sheesh!

"AB 2284 allows law enforcement to stop and question drivers who are transporting in plain sight irrigation supplies – commonly used in illicit grows – over unpaved or gravel roads that run through specified resource lands. These include public lands and private Timber Preserve Zone forest lands of 50,000 acres or larger. Owners of TPZ lands of 2,500 acres or more can also opt in."

Think about that, please.  They can stop you and question you if 1) you are carrying irrigation equipment 2) in plain view 3) on an upaved or gravel road 4) in specified forest areas.  Okay... And what happens?  The cop says, "Is that for growing dope?" and the Bad Guys say, "No it's not officer."  End of the movie.  It's not illegal to possess irrigation pipe.  Of course, even that is only going to happen if the Bad Guys are too stupid not to throw a tarp over the stuff in the back of their pickup truck.  Duh!  And then, of course, obviously, you lay irrigation pipe before you plant, so there's not much chance of ever stopping somebody whose got both irrigation pipe and weed in the back of their truck at the same time.

This law makes it harder for the cops to catch these guys.  They'll just cover up the stuff.  Better to leave them alone so they don't cover it up and the cops can spot them and track them to their growing plots and catch them with the goods.

Sorry, Assemblyman Chesbro, but this law is nothing to crow about in my book.

(Gee, i hope this isn't too "political" for a train forum!)

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