Seefeldt says brush removed from stream banks so water can be siphoned to the grow sites can alter water temperatures, affecting the delicate trout that are plentiful here. Those streams, he says, “will take awhile to heal.”
Earlier this year, four Mexican citizens were sentenced to federal prison for their involvement in a conspiracy to manufacture marijuana in the national forest. They were arrested in an August 2011 raid after hunters discovered their grow site the previous fall.
David Spakowicz, director of field operations for the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation’s eastern region, says the state once thought it was “immune” from the sort of marijuana operations that have long existed in California and other Western states. He hopes Wisconsin’s policy, which he describes as “we’re not only going to take your plants, we’re going to arrest you,” will soon be a deterrent.
Van Hollen says the state will continue to ramp up efforts to crack down on the problem. “We want to take these criminals off the streets, make sure they’re held accountable,” he says. “Eventually that’s going to (be) a deterrent.”
Since 2010, there have been 32 arrests in connection with marijuana grow sites in Wisconsin’s only national forest, a state forest, state wildlife area and on private property. Weapons were found in all but one of those cases, Spakowicz says.
Spakowicz says growing marijuana inside the U.S. makes economic sense to drug traffickers: There’s no risk of detection at the U.S.-Mexico border, as there is for marijuana grown in Mexico, and because the drug is distributed to nearby cities such as Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis, there’s less a of a chance of being caught transporting it.
Authorities were tipped off by a fisherman in the latest case. Law enforcement officials then flew over the area and spotted several growing sites. The criminal complaint says investigators set up digital cameras to monitor activity and installed tracking devices on vehicles driven to the marijuana growing operations. When the site was raided, bags full of marijuana processed for distribution were seized.
To Seefeldt, it is more than a crime. “It gives me a disgust in my stomach that people come here with no respect for the land, no respect for the people that use it, no respect for the resources,” he says.
The way the sites are managed follows a pattern, Spakowicz says. Workers are recruited and brought to Wisconsin to plant and tend the crops. They rarely leave the site and sleep in tents or makeshift shelters. “We’ve had some workers tell us, ‘I was supposed to come to Green Bay to work in a restaurant,'” and some don’t even know what state they’re in, he says. They don’t get paid until the crop is harvested and are told little about other aspects of the operation.
When I was a kid, my family had a small farm (so small that it hardly qualified as a farm by Vermont standards) that started with a cow and grew to include a pig, chickens and a flock of sheep that grazed the field beyond our vegetable garden. Only the milk cow, Star, who had come into our family as my brother’s 4-H project, was ever named. We’d been taught from an early age that the rest of the hoofed and clawed creatures around us were livestock (as opposed to pets) and cautioned against forming an emotional bond.
Unlike becoming the parent of a human, there’s a minimum age requirement — you have to be 21 — to legally become the parent of a recreational-use pot plant (different regulations apply to medical marijuana). And that six-plant limit? That’s per private residence — not resident — which means you can’t legally grow a dozen plants just because you split the rent with a roommate. Which brings me to another wrinkle that factors heavily into who does and doesn’t get to become a pot-plant parent in this fair city. Although not impossible, it’s far easier if you own the place in which you’re living and growing a pot plant. Even if your landlord doesn’t explicitly forbid the on-premises cultivation of cannabis (which he or she legally can), your lease agreement probably won’t cover the sort of modifications you might make to the property in your pursuit of off-the-grid ganja.
From art galleries and speakeasies to deli themes and circus vibes, dispensaries have gone next-level