I’ve avoided addressing this subject, as it perpetuates the stereotype that has been in existence since the 1960’s — the pot-smoking, drug culture of Big Sur. If it was ever true in the past, it is a blatant stereotype today. And it reeks of the sensationalism that the local media seems so bent on. However, there are some points I think deserve addressing.
Yes, a rather large pot farm (10K plants reported) were found on the LPNF in Big Sur a few days ago. It was on public lands, and is clearly a large, commercial operation, not the small guerilla operations typically seen. MCSO’s estimation of the value, at least based on past experience, is grossly exaggerated. As a criminal defense attorney for many years, I have seen that it is quite typical for law enforcement to estimate value based on gross weight, including stems, root balls, and dirt. Allows them to make it seem more than it is. I am not minimizing 10K plants, that is a large number of plants, I am just minimizing the claimed value.
These commercial pot farm problems are not endemic to Big Sur, but to large tracts of public lands anywhere in California. Santa Barbara, and many other places, are reporting finding these types of pot farms on their public lands. As long as it is illegal to grow pot — and even though California has a compassionate use statute, the federal government refuses to recognize it — it is a lucrative business adventure. Frankly with a farm this size, I don’t think the declining economy is at fault. This one, based on reported size only, is a well-established commercial cartel, not part of the local economy.
I would like to give my personal thanks to Tom Hopkins, president of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance for volunteering his organization’s expertise and manpower to clean up this site. Kudos to VWA!