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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 19th January 2018 > KINGS OF THE STONED AGE

KINGS OF THE STONED AGE

LEGALIZED Marijuana WAS SUPPOSED TO HURT THE MEXICAN Drug Cartels, BUT Narcos IN CALIFORNI A MAY BE USING IT TO PLANT THE SEEDS OF A Takeover
HIGH AND GO SEEK Law enforcement officers in the forests of Northern California. The authorities are struggling to keep cartels out of the weed business here, even though recreational marijuana became legal on January 1 and medical marijuana has been permitted since 1996
PHHOTOGRAPH BY Morgan Heim

THE FOUR MEN BOLTED THROUGH THE forest, exhausted and bleeding from multiple cuts. When they emerged from the trees on that dry summer night in 2016, they spotted a house in the distance. They ran up to it and knocked on the stranger’s door, then frantically asked for help in broken English. The stranger called the police. When the cops arrived, the men told a harrowing story of being beaten by armed guards at an illegal pot farm and fleeing for their lives.

The men, all Latino, described to the police where the farm was located, just outside a heavily forested area in California’s Calaveras County. Soon the authorities sent up a team to raid the farm. What they discovered: more than 23,000 marijuana plants producing upward of $60 million worth of weed. They also found two women they believe were selling marijuana for the Mexican drug cartels.

For months in Calaveras County, a rural, conservative enclave about 125 miles east of San Francisco, this drug bust generated local headlines. But federal authorities say Mexican drug cartels are propping up black-market marijuana farms like this all across Northern California. More than 160 years ago, immigrants, business tycoons and speculators poured into these foothills along the Sierra Nevada to mine the ridges and pan the streams for gold. Now weed is sparking the next gold rush, and law enforcement is struggling to keep cartels out of the game, even though recreational marijuana became legal in California on January 1 and medical marijuana has been permitted since 1996.

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About Newsweek International

In this weeks Newsweek Int. - Whoever built the bombs that were used at the 2013 Boston Marathon is still on the loose. - Legalized pot was supposed to hurt the Mexican cartels, but narcos in California may be using it to plant the seeds of a takeover.