Tuesday, June 28, 2022
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‘Please Help Us’—Siskiyou County Sheriff Asks Elon Musk for Aid Combatting Illegal Cannabis

Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office just used their Twitter account to throw a Hail Mary, asking eccentric billionaire Elon Musk for his help in their fight to eradicate illegal cannabis grows. 

This comes after multiple tweets in the last week and a half asking for California State Governor Gavin Newsom’s help. It is unclear whether the State of California ever responded to those tweets.

California’s rural north has long been an agricultural center for California cannabis, both pre and post-legalization. But, in an era of permits and oversight, some are using Northern California’s vast vistas and undermanned enforcement infrastructure to cultivate marijuana, dodge regulation, and commit water theft, environmental crimes, and human trafficking.

Siskiyou County Sheriff Jermiah LaRue [Photograph from the County website]

According to Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue, 37-years-old and the youngest sheriff in California, eradicating illegal cannabis in Siskiyou County is complicated by the fact the overwhelming majority of the grows are located within an approximately twenty square mile subdivision known as the Mount Shasta Vistas populated almost exclusively by residents of Hmong and Chinese descent. 

The residents of the Mount Shasta Vista community have pushed back on enforcement attempts and claimed law enforcement is racist towards their community and disproportionately targeting them.

Sheriff LaRue told us claims of racism and discrimination have been weaponized to undermine enforcement and conceal the organized crime happening in plain sight. 

Last June, the Lava Fire raged on the slopes of Mount Shasta, California’s 5th tallest mountain. The fire forced the evacuation of the Mount Shasta Division subdivision. A 35-year-old Hmong man named Soobleej Kaub Hawj was driving his pickup followed by his wife and children. When the caravan hit a four-way intersection where deputies were stationed, Hawj ignored or failed to comprehend officers’ commands, reportedly brandished a handgun, and, according to Sheriff LaRue, fired on deputies one time. Some reports have deputies firing as many as 60 shots at Hawj killing the man. Hawj’s death led to protests and criticism born of the community’s racial tension.

The family of Hawj who witnessed the shooting has not spoken out nor has Sheriff LaRue released body cam footage which was taken immediately after the incident.

Sheriff LaRue argues his job is to maintain public safety and the race of a suspect does not dictate his agency’s response or approach. He said the residents of the Mount Shasta Vista subdivision have learned they can claim racism and use this to disrupt law enforcement’s efforts.

The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office has been using its social media to share with the world the Sisyphean task of eradicating illegal cannabis within their borders. They have published videos, narrated by Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue depicting their efforts.

He told us in May 2021 he took to social media to share the conditions of the Mount Shasta Vista subdivision after finding that state and local officials ignored his requests for support. Sheriff LaRue believes these officials are leery of becoming involved because of racialized rhetoric used by critics and the media. At that time, he posted videos of the environmental crimes and living conditions his agency has found the norm in the subdivision. He then tagged President Joe Biden, Governor Gavin Newsom, activist Erin Brokovich, and California’s Office of Emergency Services. Despite these efforts, Sheriff LaRue told us his tweets fell on deaf ears.

As eradication efforts picked up this last month, Sheriff LaRue once again took to Twitter hoping to share the deplorable conditions his deputies were found within the Mount Shasta Vista subdivisions, starting with once again appealing to Governor Newsom.

Yesterday, Sheriff LaRue tagged none other than Elon Musk, the eccentric billionaire that owns Tesla and is currently wavering on whether or not he will buy Twitter and mold it into his vision of a free speech haven. Sheriff LaRue told us he tweeted at Musk hoping to “keep the conversation going.”

After appealing for outside assistance time and time again, Sheriff LaRue told us the tweet was an attempt to get somebody to respond to his needs. “Elon’s smart and has a lot of money. Maybe he can help us.”

Propane, gas, and pesticides are all clustered at the end of a hoop house [Picture provided by Sheriff LaRue]

In these videos, viewers are shown cannabis operations with numerous 4,000-gallon doughboy swimming pools being refilled by water trucks multiple times per day. Pipes run directly from the pools into nearby hoop houses. Sheriff LaRue described dead and abused animals on these farms as “common.” He characterized the sheer saturation of these grows as rising to a level far beyond what his agency could keep under control.

This year, Sheriff LaRue has framed his fight against illegal cannabis as a form of environmental justice protecting the county’s land and water. As expected in a region in the midst of a historic drought, any form of agriculture exacerbates water shortages.

In 2020, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors submitted concerns to the  State Water Resources Control Board  (SWRCB) arguing that these illegal grows were putting a strain on the Shasta River watershed. 

Massive hoop houses from above [Picture provided by Sheriff LaRue]

Upon investigation, the SWRCB determined that “groundwater use for cannabis cultivation in the basin is significantly less than the volume of groundwater used for other irrigation purposes.” Despite the Board of Supervisors’ claims that illegal cannabis grows were causing the decline in the county’s aquifer, the SWRCB found the drought coupled with flood irrigation, stock water, and forage crops were the biggest impact to groundwater levels.  

High Country News’s article “Why is this California sheriff suddenly interested in ‘environmental crimes?” explores Sheriff LaRue’s approach to and reasons for eradicating illegal cannabis. One point they make is that the Siskiyou Board of Supervisors recently increased the Sheriff’s Department’s financial allotment.  “The budget line for marijuana suppression forfeiture — money set aside for confiscation — nearly doubled, from just over $61,000 in the fiscal year 2020-2021 to nearly $119,000 for 2022. It was the largest increase in a decade. Meanwhile, the county planning department, which oversees water, building, and general environmental regulations, struggled to retain its small team of code enforcement officers.” 

A dog alone and wandering one of the grow sites [Picture provided by Sheriff LaRue]

There is evidence that the State of California afforded some support to Siskiyou’s eradication efforts last year. CAMP assisted law enforcement in Siskiyou County that year working 52 grow sites and eradicating 59,075 plants.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said, “From dumping toxic chemicals in our waterways to cheating the state out of millions of tax dollars, illicit marijuana grows have far-reaching impacts and unintended consequences.”

Meanwhile, Sheriff LaRue waits to see if he will hear from Elon. He told us a person he believes is an executive who works in close proximity to Musk had reached out to him.La Rue was waiting to see if that connection bears out.

There’s an irony in Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office asking for Elon Musk’s support in his crackdown on illegal cannabis. He is a public cannabis user and infamous for sharing a blunt with Joe Rogan.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Take a dozer to it year after year until they give up. Cheap and easy compared to our current eradication process. Is that too much for the woke?

  2. That final sentence is just wrong. You generalize Musk taking one hit and label him a “public cannabis user”, with the clear sense that he is a habitual user. In fact, if you listen to the Rogan segment, Musk takes one hit only and then explains why he does not smioke weed. Also, note the difference between “taking one hit” and “sharing a blunt”; you miscontrue the action. Maybe you should check out the source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Nael8xcSus

  3. Those cowboy sheriffs in Siskiyou Co. are trying to get the state water board to back their beef against them foreigners.. lol and the truth be known they aren’t using groundwater they’re trucking in water, and that pisses them deputies off! Well fuck them!

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
Picking Brains—Baring Bones—Paying it By Ears: I'm a reporter in Mendocino County and the Founder of MendoFever.

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