City of cannabis: an inside look on the impact illegal grows have on the Northstate

Warning message

The subscription service is currently unavailable. Please try again later.
Twitter icon
officer and woman

Mount Shasta is a beacon on the horizon in Siskiyou County with clear skies and beautiful open land.

However, as you drive through the rural communities, greenhouses and trash-filled illegal grows dotting the hillsides create another perception entirely.

“There’s a correct way to grow cannabis and this is not it,” Siskiyou County Sheriff Jerimiah LaRue said.

The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department received a search warrant to eradicate an illegal marijuana grow just south of Yreka. The parcel had 107 greenhouses, and each greenhouse had an estimated 1,000 individual plants.

“We’re dealing with a city of cannabis,” LaRue said.

“There are anywhere from 4,000 to 8,000 people out here that grow cannabis illegally. So this greenhouse is pretty typical for what we deal with in Siskiyou County. It’s about 30 by 100, about 3000 square feet.”

The Sheriff estimates there are about 2,000 parcels in the county creating over 5,000 greenhouses that take up thousands of acres of land and cover every corner of the county.

KRCR had the opportunity to go out to a grow while the Sheriff’s team was cleaning up the site. They bulldozed plants and worked on bringing down greenhouses.

Sheriff LaRue explains the impacts illegal grows have on the environment, Siskiyou County and California as a whole.

“Here’s the most frustrating thing,” LaRue said.

“We will eradicate this and then within just say a month, it could be right back how it is.”

California’s Prop 64 signed in 2018, allows anyone 21 and older to grow up to six plants. Its goal was to bring growers out of the shadows and bring their revenue into communities. But for many growers, the limit on the number of plants keeps them on the black market.

“Decriminalizing things or reducing punishment for cannabis, while that might look okay for people who are legitimate growers, but the people dealing in the black market arena, it’s just a free ticket and a free pass to get away with it,” LaRue said.

Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department bulldozing cannabis plants and taking down green houses during an eradication project.

LaRue said it’s not about the cannabis plant itself. He said he suspects those growing legally are extremely frustrated with the process because of taxes and regulations it makes it harder for them to do the right thing rather than having stricter punishment on those who do it wrong.

So what's at the heart of the problem? Sheriff LaRue says the penalty for growing thousands of plants is the same as the penalty for growing just one over the legal limit.

“In your head what’s the solution to this problem, not just impact California as a whole, but your community locally?” KRCR’s Mason Carroll asked.

'So the biggest impact would be that Sacramento and I point to the legislature, that they would enact some laws that would have some sort of punishment for doing it wrong and then follow through with it,” LaRue said.

“Because it’s like anything else if you get away with it. What’s to stop you from doing it?"

LaRue and his team work nonstop to tackle the problem in their county. He said they do eradication operations almost on a weekly basis.

The Sheriff said the plants were young and with how illegal grows run they can produce three generations of mamajuana plants in one year.

He said they need lawmakers to step up not only for his county now, but for the future of California.

"No one that’s making this million of dollars a year is going to have some sort of the moral change in their mind to say ‘you know I need to quit doing this,’” LaRue said.

“That’s not going to happen. That’s foolishness. People are going to commit crimes. That’s the way it is. We’ve actually enabled them to get away with it, the criminals, because of our laws.”

e-mail icon Facebook icon Twitter icon LinkedIn icon Reddit icon
Rate this article: 
Article category: 
Regional Marijuana News: