Barger, Sheriff Detail Illegal Cannabis Fight

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Sheriff Alex Villanueva, along with Congressman Mike Garcia, Assemblyman Tom Lackey, an FBI special agent and a group of subject matter experts from the public and private sector spoke to Antelope Valley residents today at a special Leona Valley community forum about stepped-up efforts to combat illegal cannabis production.

“I want illegal growers to know this: You are not welcome here,” said Barger, whose district covers northern Los Angeles County, including the Antelope Valley. “I will do all that is within my power to stop illegal cannabis growth operations.”

“Our department will continue to work in collaboration with other agencies in making a dent on illegal cannabis grows,” Sheriff Villanueva said. “We look forward to this year and the continued partnerships.”

Following California voters’ 2016 vote to legalize recreational marijuana use by adults, hundreds of illegal marijuana farms have appeared. In the Antelope Valley, most have appeared since 2020, both in clearings bulldozed among desert vegetation and in houses that were purchased or rented by growers and gutted to hold marijuana crops. Marijuana growers steal water, spread trash, cause air and noise pollution with industrial-sized electrical generators, poison wildlife with pesticides, destroy Joshua trees and other native plants, and intimidate neighbors.

In October 2021, the Board of Supervisors approved $4.9 million for the Sheriff’s Department to combat illegal grows in the Antelope Valley and illegal dispensaries in unincorporated areas countywide. Two months later, in January 2022, Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Barger introduced a county nuisance abatement ordinance that would levy fines of up to $30,000 per day against illegal marijuana dispensaries and illegal marijuana farms.

The community forum took place inside the Westside Christian Fellowship and was aired live on the Supervisor’s Facebook page.

Congressman Garcia addressed the community members in attendance.

“I’m grateful to partner with L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Sheriff Alex Villanueva on the effort to combat the illegal marijuana grows. Since I first brought national attention to this crisis sweeping across our community, we have made significant progress,” Garcia said. “However, more work remains, and we can’t take our foot off the gas pedal. Eradicating these grows remains a top priority for me and I will continue to do all I can to ensure that we fully combat this problem and keep our community safe.”

Assemblyman Lackey stressed the urgency of combatting cannabis. “Unlike other states, California has had a sophisticated illicit cannabis market far before its legalization. To make matters worse, we now have an open-door policy when it comes to illegal cultivation. It’s a felony to grow cannabis illegally in every western state except California. Whether you’re in favor of protecting the environment, protecting public health, or protecting public safety, we must do whatever we can to shut these operations down. Now is the time to act.”

State Senator Scott Wilk, whose district covers northern Los Angeles County, thanked Supervisor Barger for organizing today’s forum.

“If we are to be successful in tackling these illegal operations, it is going to take a concerted and coordinated effort by federal, local and state agencies,” said Wilk. “I look forward to continuing our work to combat this threat to our region’s safety and peace of mind.”

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