A California congressman representing the northern, pot-growing part of the state has introduced legislation further penalizing outdoor growers who plant their crops illegally on private and public land.
Cleanup at an illegal grow in Shasta Trinity National Forest.
Rep. Jared Huffman yesterday introduced the Protecting Lands Against Narcotics Trafficking Act, also known as the PLANT Act as a way of battling illegal marijuana cultivation in his district.
The bill doesn't actually establish new penalties, instead it charges the U.S. Sentencing Commission to do that. It does outline who would be punished, though: people convicted of growing marijuana on federal land and people who trespass on private property who use chemical fertilizers, pesticides or create hazards for humans or wildlife. The bill also asks for increased penalties for illegally diverting water from natural streams for irrigation.
According to Huffman, more than one million plants were seized from 471 illegal grows on national forest lands across the country in 2012.
"Throughout my district and increasingly throughout the United States, we're seeing trespass marijuana grows threatening endangered wildlife, contaminating fragile salmon streams, and making forests unsafe for working and recreation," Huffman said in a press release.
The bipartisan co-sponsors of the bill include fellow California Reps. Doug LaMalfa and Mike Thompson as well as Colorado Republican congressman Doug Lamborn.
Huffman isn't necessarily anti-cannabis, however. He says he is all for more rational cannabis policies and feels that cannabis reform is best left to the states. But he says illegal farming in national forests by drug cartels has become an issue in his district and that there needs to be more strict penalties for people tearing up someone's land to grow cannabis.
"These illegal grow sites are threatening lives, destroying public lands and devastating wildlife," Thompson said in a press release. "There should be stiff penalties for the people whose reckless and illegal actions are causing this environmental damage. Our legislation will make sure these criminals are held fully responsible for the harm they cause."
After being introduced, the bill was sent to the House Judiciary Committee where it could sit indefinitely.
U.S. Forest Service. Trash left behind at an illegal grow in Shasta Trinity National Forest.