Open space being used to grow marijuana in Santa Clara County

By on Sun, November 23, 2008

In Santa Clara County, open space preserves are being used to grow marijuana, creating what could be a dangerous situation, reports the Mercury News.

In the hillsides high above Saratoga, three men guarded a garden of nearly 40,000 marijuana plants, representing more than $116 million in illegal sales. Tipped off by suspicious neighbors, a team of eradication experts hiked to a remote swath of land nestled between private property and El Sereno Open Space Preserve to seize the pot growing there and arrest the farmers.

During the operation, which took place on July 10, shots were exchanged, leaving one grower dead and scattering the two others into the brush. While law enforcement officials say it is safe for residents to continue hiking and enjoying the preserves, the two men remain at large and the incident has left some mountain residents uneasy. ...

In 2008, Santa Clara County law enforcement teams performed 11 raids over five days, eradicating 76,278 pot plants, arresting three suspects and confiscating one weapon, according to statistics provided by Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), a coalition of federal, county and local narcotics officers. About $11.6 billion in illegal marijuana plants were confiscated statewide, making California the No. 1 producer of commercially grown marijuana. The numbers do not reflect those marijuana gardens destroyed during the wildfires earlier this summer.

At first glance, the area does not appear conducive to growing a large marijuana garden. The hillsides are laden with steep ravines; there is no obvious water source. But far off the roadside, past poison oak plants, one notices how the trees eventually form a perfect canopy for camouflage.

The county sheriff is advising open space users to stay on trails to avoid growers, who are going to keep their crops off the beaten path.

Too bad we haven’t legalized marijuana, thereby allowing it to be grown out in the open, alongside brussel sprouts, artichokes, strawberries, pumpkins, and vineyards.

As it is, these hidden pot farms make for an unsafe open space environment, in regard for safety of hikers enjoying the great outdoors, as well as the the health of the land by all the poisons and fertlizers used to manage the “agriculture.”  After harvest, left behind are the farmer’s waste products of irrigation tubing, camping gear, and other rubbish from growing and guarding.

Maybe I’m not saying anything new, nothing that all of you already know, so I’ll just put in my two cents that the stuff should be legalized.  I’m no Cheech - I just don’t understand why marijuana’s illegal.  :)

Anneliese Agren: I could not agree more!

The amount of money that could be made by the government if it were legalized and taxed is staggering. Too bad most people are too closed minded about this beneficial plant.

Comment 3
Thu, November 27, 2008 8:34am
Deb Wong
All my comments

I have no argument with you there. It’s a really stupid law, when there are harmful substances available which are perfectly legal, while pot growers are imprisoned & fined.

Comment 4
Sat, November 29, 2008 6:50pm
Todd McGee
All my comments

Based on the previous respondents views I guess I’d have to admit that I am closed-minded and stupid about this drug and I am glad that it is illegal and that law enforcement officers are going after the growers. I participated in cleaning up several plots in Castle Rock State Park and would happily help clean out other plots.

Comment 5
Sun, November 30, 2008 4:56am
Deb Wong
All my comments

Hi Todd,

I admire that you are doing what you think is right.  What is “right” is a matter of opinion, however.

Personal note: Several of my family members, including my dear brother who passed away at 47, suffered great pain from their cancers, and were only relieved of that pain through marijuana use. Their other pain killers wore off, or caused terrible side effects.

Now, I personally do not smoke weed. Even in my young hippie days, I only toked it for social reasons, as our crowd didn’t drink alcohol, so that was our “drug of choice”. It really didn’t do much for me, to be honest, and it hurt my throat.  I also never went on to “harder stuff”, and rarely drink alcohol these days (I never smoked cigarettes).

If marijuana were legal, medical science would be able to research & use the
drug in a positive way.  That pain-killing property could be turned into
medications which do not have the side effects of morphine, Vicodin, and
other medications that are used now. It would be nice if cannabis were called a “medication”, as it was used for thousands of years that way.

I have spent too much time in hospitals and
with dying loved ones in pain to see anything positive about a law which would keep them from alleviating that pain.  Morphine caused my brother to be asleep much of the time, to lose control of his body functions, and to suffer from horrendous hallucinations in his dreams, during his last days.

Then someone provided him with some marijuana. He was then able to communicate with us, had some dignity and autonomy, and most of all, to spend some quality time with us before he left. We were able to say our goodbyes,and everything we wanted to say. If he had stayed on morphine, he could not have done that, as he would have either been too out of it to communicate, or in too much pain.

At the time, the only access that my brother had to the substance was through someone who obtained it from an illegal source. I bless that illegal source, and curse a law that would make it wrong.

Most people’s acceptance of the law against marijuana has to do with our initial education about the plant. What we were taught in school about the plant was a result of a government which, in 1937, outlawed marijuana for political and racist reasons.

If anyone believes the hype that “Reefer Madness” and other propaganda about cannabis that was circulated at the time, they need to re-educate themselves.
No one that I knew ever behaved that way under the influence of marijuana - and I hung out with the Grateful Dead and many others who smoked the stuff all the time.  All it does is make a person so mellow, that the worst consequence was that they weren’t motivated to do much of anything.  Last I checked, “Laziness” and being relaxed are not illegal. There was also much creativity happening through that pot smoke.

Yet one of my sisters was killed, and another of my sisters was crippled, in car wrecks by persons who were impaired by a legal substance - alcohol.

Consider that if marijuana were legal, there would be unlimited revenues flowing into the state, and NO REASON for anyone to grow it otherwise. That means much less crowding in our overcrowded prisons.  That plot of land that you cleaned up could have been used to grow a legitimate cash crop, which
would have been taxed.

Those revenues would have contributed to funding schools, roads, and services which are now suffering for lack of funding. Legalizing Marijuana would lesson the national debt immensely. It would allow tax revenue to be spent on other more important issues than law enforcement.

You have to ask yourself WHY drugs like alcohol, cigarettes and many FDA approved “safe” drugs are legal, while cannabis is not.

David R Ford, who wrote:”[*Marijuana: Not Guilty As Charged*][1]”, writes:
“There are few legitimate arguments that can be made why marijuana shouldn’t be legal and a plethora of arguments that can be made why the drug should be legal. In ten thousand years of its use, there is not one recorded death from the overdose or toxicity of cannabis. Compare that with alcohol, which kills more than 100,000 American’s each year. Or with nicotine products that kill more than 400,000 annually. Or with the FDA-approved, so-called “safe drugs” listed in the physicians’ Desk Reference, which cause the death of
another 100,000 each year, and put one million Americans in the hospital annually as a result of toxicity or overdose.

Numerous published studies suggest that marijuana has medical value in treating patients with serious illnesses such as AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and chronic pain. The Institute of Medicine, in the most comprehensive study of medical marijuana’s efficacy to date, concluded: “Nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety all can be mitigated by marijuana.”

Here is a good link for more information in the history of cannabis:


There are more arguments for cannabis, but you get the idea.  Just because something is the law, does not make it right or moral.  Many things which were once illegal(like interracial marriage and certain common sexual positions) are no longer illegal.  But it takes some real understanding of an issue, including learning its history, to ascertain
whether or not a law is just…and needs to be either defended - or changed.


The cost of enforcement (money, time, lives) is considerable. A friend’s husband was chief of maintenance at Sequoia/Kings Canyon for many years and participated in a number of “eradications”. These are dangerous, well-coordinated, non-trivial operations; the growers are sophisticated, the people guarding the farms (not just plots—acres are farmed) are well-armed. The cartels running the growing operations have plenty of money and resources, and by using public lands they don’t risk losing their own property. In the meantime, their operations trash the ecosystems and threaten the wildlife and other resources that our national forests and parks are supposed to protect. (Fertilizer, diverting water, runoff, clearing land for planting marijuana, besides the camps that the guards set up and the trash and waste they produce.) I’m not a pot smoker either, but feel strongly that legalizing marijuana would remove the motivation for the cartels to operate on our public lands, would save lives and money, and would free up law enforcement resources.

Comment 7
Wed, December 3, 2008 2:15pm
Todd McGee
All my comments

Thank you for you comments but I think you may have incorrectly assumed that I am not aware of the arguments for legalizing marijuana. I am very well aware of the arguments on both sides of the issue, you and I just happen to have reached different conclusions. You have convincingly argued that alcohol should be tightly controlled and that marijuana should be available as a last ditch medication for patients with no other recourse. Those things can be readily accomplished without legalizing another drug for widespread use.

Just to add to the mix:

I still believe the stuff should be legalized.  I believe that what Amsterdam’s cleaning up, is not the legalization of marijuana, but the commerce and culture they initially built around it.

Legalize it so that it may be grown cleanly and openly in proper spaces, not secretly in open spaces.  No one around here has to bootleg booze up in the hills, a practice that, like pot farming, also led to armed guards securing secret stills in the countryside during Prohibition.

I’m going on a clean-up operation in January.  Will post photos and a write-up if that’s allowed.  :)