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US attorney warns California farmers they will lose farms if they allow marijuana grows

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POSTED February 28, 2012 8:18 p.m.

 

SACRAMENTO (AP) — The top federal prosecutor in the Central Valley said Tuesday that he plans a tour this week to tell agricultural landowners they could lose their property or be prosecuted if they permit large marijuana plantations on their land.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner will visit the Fresno County Farm Bureau on Thursday and the Kern County Sherriff's Department on Friday to warn of the federal crackdown.

Investigators have found large marijuana fields primarily in the southern part of the valley, from Stanislaus County to Kern County, Wagner said in an address to the Sacramento Press Club. The crackdown targets landowners who allow their properties to be used for marijuana cultivation.

Wagner called the large-scale operations "a hazard to people in those farming communities."

Ryan Jacobsen of the Fresno County Farm Bureau welcomed the news. He said residents are endangered by the marijuana grows, which often are operated by absentee landowners.

"It looks like it's mostly outsiders. It's not most of the mainstream farmers and ranchers who have been there for generations," Jacobsen said. "A lot of this is not necessarily being grown for California medicinal marijuana use. A lot of it's being exported to other states."

He and Wagner said the marijuana plots are often on the scale of industrial farming.

"We're not talking about backyard size. One bust was 55 acres. There's many, many 20-acre parcels down here that are being fully grown with marijuana. It's probably on a scale much, much larger than most people are familiar with," Jacobsen said. "There's guard towers that have gone up in the middle of ag lands to protect the grows."

California narcotics officers said they found millions fewer pot plants on remote public lands last summer, largely because they believe growers have shifted to growing in plain sight with the hope that California's medical marijuana law would make prosecution by state district attorneys more difficult.

 

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