Pot Growers Tending "Poached" Land

Private landowners are feeling the pinch from illegal marijuana farms

By Jackson West
|  Monday, Sep 14, 2009  |  Updated 2:15 PM PDT
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Pot Growers Tending "Poached" Land

Rob Bell

Private land owners in Northern California aren't just stumbling across marijuana plants, but traps and armed guards as well.

Part of California's bumper crop of marijuana is being grown on private land -- and the growers aren't always friendly to their unintentional hosts.

Armed growers are even setting booby traps to protect crops and ward away owners, hikers and animals.

One rancher who plowed under a garden was subjected to vandalism that turned his 80 head of bison too wild to handle, reported the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The heartbroken rancher later had to slaughter the unmanageable animals.

While much has been written about illegal farms on public land, private land is no less harmed by pesticides, fertilizers and deforestation involved in the secret gardens.

So far, rural Lake County leads in the tally of plants seized in annual eradication efforts, with 800,000 weeds cut short.

But in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, most of the seizures have been on private land -- however, it's not clear how many of those farms were there without permission.

Photo by Rob Bell.

Jackson West figures the savings in eradication efforts and environmental damage should be calculated into how much legalization would help California's budget.

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