Marijuana cultivation is a clear danger to the public

Illegal marijuana cultivation has become a huge problem on our federal lands — to the point where it’s a clear danger to the public and harmful to the environment. Law enforcement doesn’t have the resources to keep pace with organized, large-scale grow operations, often run by international cartel organizations.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, roughly 90 percent of all illegal marijuana grow sites are located on National Forest system land in California. Local, state, and federal officials recently completed a year-long illegal marijuana eradication effort known as Operation Forest Watch. The effort resulted in the seizure of 82 firearms, 638,370 plants, and more than 103,603 pounds of trash, pesticides, and chemicals.

It’s a major problem that many in the North State are all too familiar with. That’s why I recently introduced H.R. 7018, the Protecting Lands Against Narcotics Trafficking, PLANT, Act.

The PLANT Act provides resources to help local, state, and federal law enforcement eradicate illegal marijuana grows on public lands, increases fines and penalties for illegally producing marijuana on public lands, and establishes a fund to restore land that has been damaged by pesticides, chemicals, and other illegal cultivation activities — paid for through fines imposed on illegal growers.

This is a bipartisan issue that I’ve been working on since I’ve been in Congress. Our public land is being abused and held hostage by armed drug traffickers. We need to be able to enjoy our federal public lands without the fear of stumbling across one of these very dangerous grow sites.

The environmental damage done by illegal pesticides, illegal water diversions and killing of wildlife at these sites is also immense. My bill equips law enforcement with the tools they need to eradicate this threat and begin the cleanup.