What Should We Do About the 2,000 Illegal Marijuana Farms in Shasta County?

In the past, I’ve talked about the dramatic rise in opioid overdose deaths from 5 in 2019 to 40 in 2021 and about the fact that our neonatal abstinence syndrome (babies born with drug withdrawal symptoms) rate is 7.2 times the state average. We have a drug problem in Shasta County and it fuels our homelessness and crime challenges.

While marijuana does have a less potent impact on people in Shasta County, it is much more widespread with ~95% of high school students reporting that they have been exposed to it.

But illegal marijuana grows present an additional set of problems beyond the smoking. Illegal marijuana farms often wreak environmental havoc, creating long-term damage to our rural landscapes, and attract violence, crime, and even trafficking.

Here’s my interview with Joe Dokes, a former law enforcement officer who has been on the frontlines of the effort to stop illegal grows in Shasta County for years.

One of the most striking insights from this interview is that the Board passed an ordinance in 2021 that says that any person who violates the county’s cannabis cultivation code will be fined $10,000 for an initial offense and $20,000 for a repeat offense.

Currently, there are an estimated 2,000 illegal marijuana farms in Shasta County. If we could impose the fines on just 5% of those farms (100 farms), the county could make $150,000 per day or $36M per year. These funds make a tremendous difference when directed to reducing homelessness, cutting crime, and fixing our roads.

What do you think?