Huffman Introduces Bill to Crack Down on Environmentally Devastating Trespass Marijuana Cultivation Operations
WASHINGTON—Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) today introduced bipartisan legislation to address the environmental damage caused by rampant trespass marijuana cultivation. The Protecting Lands Against Narcotics Trafficking Act (PLANT Act) would establish new penalties for causing environmental damage while cultivating marijuana on federal public lands or while trespassing on private property. Huffman introduced the bill with bipartisan cosponsors Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), and Doug Lamborn (R-CO).
“Throughout my district and increasingly throughout the United States, we’re seeing trespass marijuana grows threatening endangered wildlife, contaminating fragile salmon streams, and making forests unsafe for working and recreation,” said Congressman Huffman, who represents the "Emerald Triangle" of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties in northern California. “As we move toward more rational marijuana policies, which I believe should be left to the states, it’s important that we address the immediate threat to our environment and public safety posed by trespass growing operations. Where it is lawful to grow marijuana, it must be done lawfully and responsibly.”
“These illegal grow sites are threatening lives, destroying public lands and devastating wildlife,” said Thompson. “There should be stiff penalties for the people whose reckless and illegal actions are causing this environmental damage. Our legislation will make sure these criminals are held fully responsible for the harm they cause.”
“The widespread illegal marijuana cultivation we’re facing in rural areas creates a strain on law enforcement, endangers our citizens and damages our public lands. Americans should never be concerned for their safety when visiting our National Forests, and the environmental damage these criminals cause places an increased burden on legal users of public lands,” said Congressman LaMalfa. “The PLANT Act gives law enforcement another tool to pursue and prosecute those who act as if our nation’s laws don’t apply in rural areas, creating a strong deterrent against these illegal operations.”
In 2012, nearly one million marijuana plants were eradicated from 471 sites on National Forest lands found in 20 states across the country. The operators of these illegal grow operations frequently level hilltops, starting landslides on erosion-prone hillsides, divert and dam creeks and streams, and use excessive pesticides to protect their crop.
Individuals and private landholders, including ranchers, timber companies, and forest trusts, report that they are increasingly forced to confront criminals and eradicate drug operations from their own land, endangering lives and costing significant sums of money for eradication and reclamation.
Cultivation of illegal drugs on federal property is already a crime under the Controlled Substances Act, but prosecutions are rare and environmental damage is almost never fully accounted for. Under current law, environmental damages such as water diversions and vegetation removal are not considered as separate or aggravating offenses.
The PLANT Act, introduced today in the House, instructs the U.S. Sentencing Commission to establish penalties for the environmental damage caused by marijuana cultivation and other controlled substance production on “trespass grows” on private property or on federal public lands. The new legislation specifically identifies three areas of concern:
Unlawful use of poisons or hazardous chemicals such as pesticides, rodenticides, or high grade fertilizers.
Substantial impairment or taking of water from local aquifers, rivers, or bodies of water.
Significant removal of vegetation or the clear cutting of timber.
The bipartisan legislation was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where it awaits further consideration. A PDF of the bill may be found HERE