Lawmakers cheer tougher penalties for pot grows

Northern California House members from both sides of the aisle are cheering new, stiffer federal penalties for illegal marijuana grows on trespassed lands.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission announced last week it had adopted tougher punishments for high-level offenders who cultivate marijuana grows on public or private lands they don’t own. The amended guidelines will be submitted to Congress and reviewed for six months before officially taking effect Nov. 1.

This had been the aim of a bill introduced last summer and a letter sent to the commission in November by Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; and Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville, as well as by senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

“Illegal marijuana grow sites that threaten lives, destroy public lands and devastate wildlife have become far too common,” Thompson said in a news release Monday. “These new sentencing guidelines will serve as a strong deterrent against these illegal grow sites, and they will help make sure criminals who wreck our public and private lands are held fully responsible for the harm they cause.”

Huffman said toxic and illegal chemicals used at such sites, plus the potential for violence, make such grows unsafe on many levels. Also, “California is in the midst of a devastating drought, and many of these grow operations illegally divert streams and tap groundwater with untold impacts on downstream water users and wildlife,” he noted.

Both he and Farr noted the nation seems to be moving toward what they consider to be more reasonable laws on marijuana use, but these illegal grows can’t be tolerated. “With these new guidelines in place, we can make public and private lands safer while protecting the environment for everyone to enjoy,” Farr said.

LaMalfa said property owners and local government often are stuck paying thousands of dollars in clean-up costs. “The Sentencing Commission’s recognition of these impacts will go a long way toward ensuring that those who disregard our nation’s laws are held responsible.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Marga

    After the Yee medical marijuana dispensary scam, I think that every article about a bill proposed by a politician, should come with an analysis of the possible political contributions that may be behind it.

  • Patty O’Day

    Josh, I don’t know how to reach you directly, but I was wondering if you will be writing an article about how much money the Koch Brothers donated to Democrat Politicians, in light of the fact that Harry Reid will not stop talking about how “UnAmerican” the Koch Brothers are? I think that might make for a lively conversation.

  • Elwood

    Good idea Marga, but unlikely to ever happen. The MSM and dimmiecrat politicians are all in bed together.

  • JohnW

    Oh, come on! First, the Koch Brothers are hard core libertarian conservatives. Highly unlikely they would spend money on Democrats, except to get them out of office — just like public employee unions in CA spend tons of money to keep in office Democrats who will give away the store in pension benefits.

    The question is not whether the Koch Brothers are “un-American.” If I had $40 billion, I also would spend tons of money to elect politicians I like — either because I agree with their views or because I want them to support my interests. The former is an exercise in citizenship. The latter is legalized corruption.

    The issue is what kind of system do you want. Here is how venture capitalist, Tom Perkins defined his system:

    “The Tom Perkins system is: You don’t get to vote unless you pay a dollar in taxes. But what I really think is it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you should get a million votes. How’s that?”

    I assume his remarks were made at least somewhat in jest and to be provocative. However, the way campaign finance is evolving thanks to Supreme Court “money is speech” rulings, our system has evolved into one that is very close to what Perkins described. It’s not the Koch Brothers who are un-American. It’s the system.

  • Patty O’Day

    Check Politico – Not exactly a Conservative Blog. Did the Koch’s give much more to Republicans over the years? Absolutely.
    But in 2010, they gave $196,000 to Democrats. Between 2000-2012, they gave $68,500 to Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn), $67,500 to Rep Collin Peterson (D-Minn), $57,500 to Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark), $55,000 to Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), $50,000 to Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark).
    These are only a very few of the many Democrats that received donations from the Koch Brothers and their Pac. Even Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, Max Baucus and Chuck Schumer took money from them. This is why I think it is so hypocritical of them to be bashing the Koch Brothers, especially from the podium of the Senate.
    And by the way, I wonder how much George Soros has given to Republicans?

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Is there a link between the Koch bros and Shrimp Boy? Let Patty and Marga check it out.

  • JohnW

    I’d be shocked if Soros ever gave a dime to a Republican. He spent huge amounts in 2004 to try to defeat George Bush. He is a self-described “progressive.”

    If you do some digging, you will most likely find that those Dems to whom the Koch Brothers contributed served on committees that affect Koch Industries. It’s common practice for business interests to cover their bases by donating to committee members of both parties. It’s not because the Koch Brothers are bipartisan.

    Those amounts you listed are a drop in the bucket compared to the tens and tens of millions in “dark money” that the Koch Brothers spend to elect Republicans and defeat Democrats. In fact, they are spending huge amounts this year to dump Mary Landrieu and Mark Pryor. And in the last election cycle, they did the same to get rid of Blanche Lincoln. They are making a huge difference in North Carolina, to defeat Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.

    But all this is irrelevant. I’m not criticizing the Koch Brothers. If I were they, I would do the same to elect the candidates I support. I’m criticizing the system.

  • JohnW

    You’re right that Politico is not exactly a conservative blog. Nor are they a liberal blog. They’re pretty much a political what’s happening “play by play” outfit — not in the tank for either party.

  • Patty O’Day

    I agree. But my main point is that Harry Reid has been going on and on about the Koch Brothers for weeks, and yet he and other Democrats accept money from them. That is my point.

  • JohnW

    Politicians saying one thing and doing another. Who knew? You would be hard put to find a single politician who is not “guilty” of that from time to time. Life is complicated. On a 1-to-10 political hypocrisy scale, I would put the example you cite at about a 3.