Last fall, I wrote Mexican Gangsters Converting America's National Parks Into Gigantic Marijuana Patches to warn about a dangerous situation developing in our most treasured parklands. Washington has refused to go after violent foreign pot-growers early in the season before maximum chemical poisoning has affected large areas of supposedly protected land. Instead, drug police are usually sent in during harvest, after a lot of damage has been done.
The government should send a message of tough enforcement by taking out the Mexican narco-thugs with a serious show of force. But the growers have used public lands for at least 10 years with little resistance.
Even though the Mexicans try to stay out of the popular areas, a deadly confrontation may be inevitable if campers wander into a little piece Mexico. More people are likely to take an inexpensive camping vacation in the economic downturn, so the possibility of a violent encounter may be increased.
Two California campers recently had a close call when they ran across a pot field in Los Padres National Forest [$26 million marijuana operation busted near New Cuyama, MSNBC, April 20, 2009].
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department says they have arrested two men in connection with a marijuana operation worth $26 million.
The sheriff's department says Javier Barragan and Jose Lopez were arrested after two campers ran across a marijuana garden they were cultivating in the Los Padres National Forest near New Cuyama. The arrests came after the two suspects allegedly chased the campers down the mountain in their truck.
Following is a press release from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.
PRESS RELEASE from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department
New Cuyama - On Friday, 04-17-09, at approximately 11:30 a.m., two adults, who had been camping in the Aliso Park area west of New Cuyama, came across an active marijuana garden. While in the area, the campers were approached by two Hispanic male adult subjects who were tending to the marijuana garden.
The subjects attempted to converse with the campers, however due to a language barrier, they were unsuccessful. The subjects requested that the campers remain in the area, until the arrival of the "boss" who spoke English. The campers became fearful and packed up their gear and left the area. While the campers were driving down the dirt road, they were approached by a pick up truck traveling the opposite direction. As they passed the truck, they noticed the occupants seemed very interested in them. The truck stopped and the driver exited and waived for the campers to come back. They ignored his request and kept driving, believing he was the "boss" that the two subjects had referred to earlier. The driver returned to his truck and began chasing the campers down the mountain. During the chase, the truck came dangerously close to the campers' vehicle several times.
Once the campers reached the paved road, they were able to distance themselves from the truck and contact law enforcement. A Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriff obtained the information from the campers and quickly disseminated it to local agencies. A short time later, a Taft Police Officer spotted a truck, matching the description provided by the campers. A traffic stop was conducted and as a result Javier Barragan (DOB 1/31/69) and Jose Lopez (DOB 5/3/71) were contacted. Both subjects were positively identified by the campers, as the persons who chased them down the mountains. The two were taken into custody and a search of the vehicle was conducted. During the search, five high powered rifles, equipped with rifle scopes and numerous rounds of ammunition were found.
Campers, don't forget your handy Glock when you pack up the gear to go where the wild things are! If you don't want to be a dead camper, plan on defending yourself, because the government won't.