Farm Workers are Targeted to Grow Illegal Weed
July 15, 2013
Marijuana Growers Threaten Farmers
Human Trafficking Also Suspected
The problem used to be in the foothills, but now marijuana growers are sourcing out areas on the Valley floor to plant the illegal crop for very high profits.
|Manuel Cunha, President of Nisei Farmers
Recently, marijuana has been found on rangelands on the West Side. Furthermore, a high profile bust happened in southeast Fresno where the crop was planted among two acres in a carved-out area of a cornfield. During the raid by the Fresno County Sheriff Department, a suspect, a reputed gang member, was found with a gunshot wound, after an exchange of gunfire from a vehicle that had apparently just sped by the scene.
These fields are linked to medical marijuana cards and fields under cultivation, but the Sheriff Department notes that there is far more marijuana being produced than the approved permits.
“Farmers are at risk with the marijuana growers on their land,” said Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno. “Farmers could be considered suspects for a short time until more evidence is gathered, and at the same time, they could be in danger if they were to wander up on the field. The Feds can take the land away from the owner if they feel that the owner is involved,” Cunha said. “The Feds will sell the land and then put the money into the DEA program.”
Cunha said another major problem is human trafficking. “Many farmworkers must be let go from farms due to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audits. The farmworkers who have lost their jobs hear that people are looking for workers, but there is no mention of marijuana. Instead, marijuana growers tell the workers they are being hired for maintaining irrigation and a drip system,” noted Cunha. “Low and behold, workers find out they are dealing with marijuana growers; and the growers threaten to harm both the workers and their families if they do not stay on the farm and work.”
Again, the pot growers will eventually move back up into the hills as authorities keep busting them up on the valley floor. “Then the hills become dangerous to cattle grazers and backpackers in the area,” Cunha said.