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California Takes Action to Combat Illicit Cannabis Grows and Transnational Criminal Organizations

A message from Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue:

According to a recent press release by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Governor Gavin Newsom has directed the creation of a new task force to combat illegal cannabis operations and transnational criminal organizations.

While it is long overdue, I am encouraged to see Governor Newsom acknowledging the devastation in California caused by the illegal cannabis industry and leading his agencies to combat the problem. As we have been requesting for years, Siskiyou County urgently needs support and commitment from numerous state agencies to successfully prevent further violent crime and damage to the environment.

Further, this press release acknowledges the associated transnational crime that has affected rural areas of the state, such as Siskiyou County.

Mark Ghilarducci, Director of the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) recently stated that “We cannot allow harmful, illicit cannabis operations to lay waste to the environment or threaten our communities.” The proliferation of illegal cannabis is a direct threat to our communities due to the increase in associated violent crime. The mishandling, improper storing, and illegal use of chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, rodenticides, and various combustible fuels continue to cause substantial environmental damage sustained to both public and private lands.

Additionally, illegal cannabis cultivators are stealing and wasting precious water from the communities and compounding the effects of a severe drought. Water continues to be stolen from legitimate agricultural operations, residential water systems, and natural rivers and streams, negatively impacting our community.

Nicole Elliott, Director of the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) acknowledged the consequences our communities face today because of illegal cannabis operations, saying, “The State of California is committed to combatting illicit commercial cannabis activity which is causing pervasive harm to California communities, the environment, consumers, and legal cannabis businesses.” This should empower the state to be aggressive in its response to the staggering proliferation of illegal cannabis in Siskiyou County.

The new state task force will focus on:

– Combating the non-linear threat of transnational crime that extends to areas of California beyond the border and into some of the most rural parts of the state. – Establishing a new data-sharing agreement that allows state and local enforcement officials to more broadly share information and cross-match data across jurisdictions. – Leveraging and better aligning the authorities and legal provisions of federal, state, and local law enforcement and regulatory agencies in conducting search warrants, and indictments and maximizing arrests and prosecution of perpetrators, while also maximizing administrative, regulatory, and civil penalties for bad actors. – Disrupting human traffickers and illegal firearm and drug smugglers. – Interdicting illegal cannabis shipments crossing California’s borders. – Coordinating with local police chiefs, sheriffs, and federal officials to deploy personnel and equipment where needed.

It is promising to see that Governor Newsom and other state agencies are acknowledging the dangerous and destructive black-market cannabis industry that is harming the environment, causing a significant increase in violent crime, and creating unhealthy and substandard living conditions for individuals caught up in labor exploitation. Unfortunately, over the years, Siskiyou County has become a living example of the consequences of damage caused by illegal cannabis cultivation.

We hope this new task force is a step in the right direction to concentrate aid in Siskiyou County. We further hope this task force takes unprecedented action that is aggressive and proportional to the threat the illegal cannabis activity poses to the quality of life and the environment in Siskiyou County.

In a recent article by the LA Times, reporter Paige St. John stated that Siskiyou County has “…the densest known concentration of illegal cannabis cultivation in California.”*

Because of the seriousness of the unprecedented illegal cannabis situation in Siskiyou County, I ask respectfully that Governor Newsom direct and prioritize this new task force to Siskiyou County where the situation is dire.

We look forward to the task force showing a strong presence in Siskiyou County in the near future.


Jeremiah LaRue Sheriff-Coroner

* ”The reality of legal weed in California: Huge illegal grows, violence, worker exploitation and deaths”


CDFW Press Release:


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