The Times podcast: Illegal marijuana floods California’s deserts

An illegal marijuana farm with a U.S. flag in the background
The view of an illegal pot farm in Joshua Tree after it was raided by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
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Shootouts. Armed guards. Stolen water. Killings. It’s not the dramatic climax of a Wild West movie. It’s what’s happening in California’s southern desert right now — thanks to illegal marijuana farms.


Although marijuana is legal in California, it still isn’t in most of the United States. So drug cartels and out-of-state growers have set up scores of illegal farms among Joshua trees and tortoise reserves.

And locals are begging law enforcement to do something about it.

Today, we speak with L.A. Times reporter Jaclyn Cosgrove, who co-wrote a story with Louis Sahagún about how the Mojave Desert is suddenly awash in illegal marijuana. And we talk to a local politician who wants legal cannabis in his community — and the illegal stuff out.

Host: Gustavo Arellano

Guests: L.A. Times county government reporter Jaclyn Cosgrove and Pearblossom town council President Chris Minsal.

More reading:

Illegal pot invades California’s deserts, bringing violence, fear, ecological destruction

California offers $100 million to rescue its struggling legal marijuana industry


California weighs steep new fines to combat illegal cannabis sellers

Listen to more episodes of The Times here

About The Times

“The Times” is made by columnist Gustavo Arellano, producer Shannon Lin, senior producer Denise Guerra, executive producer Abbie Fentress Swanson and editors Lauren Raab, Shani O. Hilton and Julia Turner. Our intern is Ashlea Brown. Our engineer is Mario Diaz and our theme song was composed by Andrew Eapen.