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Letters to the Editor: Illegal pot farms plague the Mojave Desert. Blame federal prohibition

A long row of plastic tents house plants.
Marijuana plants grow at an illegal farming operation in the Antelope Valley on June 8.
(L.A. County Sheriff’s Department)

To the editor: “It scares the hell out of everyone in the business,” said Adam Spiker, executive director of the nonprofit Southern California Coalition, the Southland’s largest marijuana trade association, in your article on the burgeoning black market and proliferation of pot farms in the Mojave Desert. What scares the “hell” out of Spiker isn’t the criminal activity associated with the farms, but the prospect of U.S. government action because the feds cannot “delineate between legal and illegal marijuana — it’s all illegal.”

The black market’s web catches any and all. Throughout the Mojave Desert, law enforcement struggles to combat illegal grow operations often controlled by criminal organizations.

Neither local nor state governments have the resources to take out these illegal grow operations, and right now, under federal law, the whole market is considered hostile. This has allowed gun-toting illegal markets to flourish.

In a recent opinion, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas opened a door to debating the federal government’s classification of cannabis as a dangerous drug. Let’s take a seat, have a talk and pass weed federally.

Troy Chavez, Temecula

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To the editor: As a member of a group of California pharmacists concerned about the purity, packaging and labeling of medical cannabis, I took note of your article’s assertion that cannabis extracts from illegal grows are making their way to “legal dispensaries in California and across the country.”

No licensed dispensary can receive cannabis products outside the legal chain of custody. But we have a long way to go to ensure that “legal” retailers are in fact selling only tested products. Among the issues confronting medical cannabis patients is very limited information on the analysis of the products they purchase.

To address this problem, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control must further strengthen labeling rules to require products to carry information similar to the “nutritional facts” on packaged foods.

In California, only a small fraction of cannabis products are purchased from licensed dispensaries, showing that we need far more enforcement and prosecution of illegal grows and processors. Enforcement should include auditing licensed operations to ensure their supply chain complies with California law.

Medical cannabis patients deserve unadulterated products.

Robert L. Stein, Claremont

The writer is a professor of practice for pharmacy law and ethics at the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences.

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To the editor: Surely we have many problems to deal with, but why is illegal pot farming in the Mojave Desert not being treated as the hostile invasion that it is?

Some of the effects are long term — destruction of the desert ecosystem and its flora and fauna, including endangered desert tortoises. But the damage is also present and urgent, including mortal danger to legitimate residents, pollution of groundwater and theft of water from aqueducts and fire hydrants.

Send in the Marines, please.

Paul Cooley, Culver City


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