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Texas is the new Mexico for marijuana growing drug cartels

chambers grow op
Young marijuana plants found as part of a larger growing operation in east Texas.

Forget smuggling marijuana across the border, it’s being grown far and wide here in Texas.

Of course, Mexican drug cartels are still smuggling tons of the plant across the border, busts happen every day, but they’ve found they can grow it in abundance here as well. There are busts every month now, sometimes several times a month. A rancher or hunter stumbles upon a field full of marijuana which is being cultivated by the cartels.

Ranging anywhere from a couple thousand to well over a 100,000, it’s all the same setup. A campsite, irrigation system, generators, all part of a sophisticated system¬†to grow out in rural areas undetected. When they are found, whoever is working the operation is long gone by the time law enforcement officials arrive.

Peculiar things happen during these events. We get to see the reactions of people and how law enforcement officials respond to it. Sometimes deputies are out there uprooting the plants themselves, other times they’re using county inmates. At a recent bust, the war on marijuana was demonstrated in full fashion as a local sheriff’s department dressed up in what seemed to be full military combat gear, complete with an armored personnel carrier, just to go uproot some plants. There were no suspects at the scene, there never are.

tyler armored personnel carrier
An armored personnel carrier in Tyler as they gear up to go uproot 2,000 cannabis plants.

Helicopters, ATVs, trucks, armored personnel carriers, heavy equipment, a lot of resources thrown at a never ending war which has gone on for over 40 years; the results of which have meant more growing operations, higher potency, more violence, and padded pockets overflowing with cash for the drug cartels.

So far, every growing operation has been found somewhere in east Texas. It has been found on federal, state, and private land. With lots of rural areas, Texas is ideal for concealing an outdoor marijuana growing operation. Sometimes though, someone happens upon one of them. Likely, the cartels plan for this and those working one operation just get shifted around to the next one.

In 2013, total marijuana plant busts amounted to over 130,000 in Texas. Just over halfway through 2014, this figure has already been far surpassed.

Illegal grow operations also account for a large amount of trash and destruction to Texas lands.

Every day in Texas officers stop and detain people for transporting marijuana, whether it’s coming from Mexico, another state, or it’s just being moved around within the state. People go to jail for anywhere from as little as less than a gram, to those driving tractor trailers hauling tons of the non-toxic plant. Each arrest costs roughly $10,000 in a state where that money could be better used elsewhere.

The economic impact of taking people and their families away from their work in order to jump through the legal system is rarely considered. In reality, the economical and social costs are staggering as a marijuana conviction can often economically penalize someone, and those who are related to them, for life.

Attitudes towards marijuana are shifting. The federal government estimates over 1.3 million regular consumers of cannabis in Texas. Polls put support for legalization at 58% in the Lone Star State, and 79% think there should be no jail time for marijuana offenders.

Every poll taken nationally shows a majority support for legalization. Support is bipartisan, with both Democrats and Republicans in majority support. The only majority opposition comes from those over 50, which make up a great deal of the voting population. Those who support legalization the most, younger people, tend to not vote.

Gallup Marijuana Poll
Gallup shows the least support for marijuana legalization nationwide at 50 percent, while others show upwards of 58 percent.

Legalization has taken place in two states now, and the rise of a legal industry, albeit extremely limited right now, has already begun to shrink drug cartel profits.

Bills for legalization, penalty reduction, and medical marijuana are set to be introduced in the 2015 Texas legislative session. The support for changing the laws is there, however legislators don’t realize it because they don’t hear from the people they represent about the matter. This is something they tell activists on regular occasion.

So far, a small group of active, dedicated people have been working hard to convince legislators to change the law, and they’ve made progress, but for a state with over 25 million people, a group of 100 can’t carry the weight by themselves.

A phone call can feel intimidating, and a form letter response can be frustrating. By making that phone call to voice your support, or by sending that letter, you genuinely have nothing to fear, it won’t ruin your reputation and the police aren’t going to come after you. That representative’s aid who you will talk to isn’t going to make a call to your employer to tell them about your stance, it’s entirely private.

With nothing to lose, and everything to gain, a phone call or letter in support, no matter how short the message, is what needs to be done. The politicians won’t act without you giving them the green light, they’re too afraid to do so.

By: Stephen Carter

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Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is a 30 year old journalist and information technology specialist living in Waco, Texas. He has been working with the cannabis movement since 2009. He founded Texas Cannabis Report in 2013 to bring Texans accurate cannabis related news.

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