(photo credit Business Insider)
Pot from illegal sites like this one can end up anywhere. “These guys aren’t growing for the legal recreational market or medical dispensaries—they’re growing to exploit a black market somewhere,” says Mark Higley, a wildlife biologist with the Hoopa Tribe in Humboldt County, whose reservation has seen an explosion in illegal grow sites. While there is no proof that illegal pot ends up in the burgeoning legal market, many familiar with the industry suspect it does.
Law enforcement officials think many trespass grows are set up by Mexican drug cartels, which prefer to ship marijuana from state to state rather than smuggle it over the international border. Growers arrested during raids are often undocumented immigrants in their 20s from Michoacan, experienced in covert agriculture and hard living. They earn around $150 a day for two to four months, much more than they would at a farm or winery.
To put things into perspective, by Gabriel’s estimates the 1.1 million illegal pot plants removed in California in 2016 would have used somewhere around 1.3 billion gallons of water—as much as 10,000 average California households do in a year.
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