Washington Examiner Report: International drug cartels illegally draining water supplies to grow plants, state senator claims

International drug cartels are illegally draining precious resources from California to grow plants, a state senator has warned.

Growers are buying up vacant lots and houses, creating elaborate greenhouses and farms that pull much-needed resources from Californians struggling under water rationing and electric brownouts.

State Sen. Melissa Hurtado told the Washington Examiner many of the property owners belong to cartels in China and Russia.

Mexican cartels have been farming on a small scale for decades, but this new breed of criminal enterprise is alarming, Sgt. Mike Charman of the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Department said.

“The punishment is so minimal and the reward is so great, there is no incentive to follow the rules,” he said. “If you get caught, it’s no big deal. The teeth to the law are just not there. The state wanted to bring in revenue with marijuana licenses, and now, we have this problem.”

The nation’s most liberal state was the first to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, and since then, recreational use has become legal as well in all Western states. Now, the repercussions are thousands of farms covering the state using billions of gallons of water per year that should be going to homes and farmers, Hurtado, who represents a large farming district in the middle of the state, said.

Punishments are slim to none because of state laws, usually just a citation. Unlawful marijuana cultivation and possession with intent to sell are both misdemeanors whether the culprit has 100 plants or 100,000. Commercial growers need a state permit to operate.

“We are going to have to start prioritizing what is important to us, and it boils down to water for health and water for food,” Hurtado told the Washington Examiner. “The status quo for legal marijuana is not going to cut it for us. My fear is that it’s going to be too late before people realize the legalization of marijuana was a mistake because of the cost to the environment.”

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