Monday, October 2, 2023

On This 4/20, Remember the Raids, Armed Agents, and California’s Warning to Growers: ‘You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide’

Campaign Against Marijuana Program agents stand atop trucks loaded down with eradicated cannabis [From the 1988 CAMP report]

As the day dawns on 4/20 and cannabis is celebrated the world round, take a moment to consider a moment captured 34 years ago.

It was the summer of 1988 and the cannabis growers of the Emerald Triangle had become attuned to the thwock-thwock of helicopters and growl of diesel engines that preceded raids conducted by armed agents. Dozens of armed men in tactical gear would chop down their plants. Their income would be reduced to compost in hours. 

The Campaign Against Marijuana Program, a united effort between state, local, and federal law enforcement, was formalized in 1983 and dedicated to eradicating black-market cannabis. 

An annual report from that year celebrated that after five years of work agents had conducted over 3,600 raids throughout the Golden State and destroyed “1,600 tons of marijuana worth over $1.9 billion”.

California Attorney General Van de Kemp is quoted in the report telling CAMP leaders at a conference that cannabis growers are now getting the message: “You can run, but you can’t hide.” 

Campaign Against Marijuana Program agents recreate the historical image from Iwo Jima[From the 1988 CAMP report]

Police militarization has come under the microscope in our era of accountability. An image from the 1988 report demonstrates CAMP had framed itself as soldiers fighting a war worth-fighting. 

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A scrum of uniformed men in the dry heat of NorCal summer stands atop a pile of cannabis, raising California’s Bear Republic flag above. Evoking the historic image of soldiers raising Old Glory on Iwo Jima, these CAMP agents framed a photo that communicated force, strength, and dominance.

Now, 34 years later, California is paying grants to cannabis growers that were once raided by CAMP. The Emerald Triangle’s growers are navigating a legal market governed by state actors while the old-timers acutely remember struggling to feed their families after CAMP paid them a visit.

We’ve come a long way since that time. As cannabis gains acceptance and legalization, the outlaw era could seem quaint and old-fashioned. Today, if you are celebrating cannabis, remember our community’s close connections to America’s War on Drugs. 

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  1. I want to give a shout out to the legacy farmers who made it through those times, growing some of the best cannabis in the world, who are now unable to make a living due to the utter failure of regulation. The struggle is real and it is happening right now.

  2. People are still getting killed, going missing, home invasions robberies. Black market will always be the biggest market. Cartels will always be here. Communities losing out, residents not feeling safe, wondering if one if your kids will be found shot or beaten. Funding and grants and process of having a legal grow all sc rewed up by a corrupt county government.
    Explain how this can be celebrated? The criminal element is alive and strong and much more dangerous than years ago.

  3. Considering an 80% to 90% price drop (before factoring inflation), and ongoing bureaucratic harassment along with continued violence in the field, it’s a marginal victory for the small farmer. At least in some states the customer base is no longer in legal jeopardy. The fact so many different drugs are now so heavily used doesn’t seem like a favorable comment on the current state of society.

  4. It’s now run by the Mexican cartels…the average tower can’t afford the price of legal pot and there’s not enough tech and wealthy millennial to to keep the legal growers in business, So much for the great experiment. You can’t mix a drug used to get high with a legal remedy. Pot is a precursor for harder drugs.

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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