Chesbro Bill To Protect Environment From Drug Abuse Advances – May 18, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

A an area clearcut for cannabis production on private land in the King Range National Conservation Area. Photo courtesy Brad Job

SACRAMENTO – AB 2284, a bill by Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro (D – North Coast) to crack down on offenders who pollute the environment and endanger the public by growing or manufacturing illegal drugs on forest lands is headed to the Assembly Floor for a vote after it was approved by the Appropriations Committee.

After recent amendments, AB 2284 would increase the penalties for those convicted of production or cultivation of a controlled substance on resource lands and timberland preserve zones of more than 50,000 acres.

“To address concerns surrounding the broad timberland definition originally included in the bill, I have continued to work with various interested parties to narrow the definition, which I included in the Assembly Appropriations Committee amendments,” Chesbro said. “I want to make it make it clear that the focus of this bill is on large industrial timber and public resource lands, and not smaller property owners and homeowners.”

“This bill is not about the legal production or use of medical marijuana under California law,” Chesbro continued. “This bill is about pollution and illegal diversion of waterways, and the increasing violence that is occurring in our forests. AB 2284 is the direct outgrowth of two hearings I held this year as Chair of the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture. At the hearings, fisheries experts, the Department of Fish and Game and environmental groups described the increasing threat that illegal drug production represents, especially to endangered species such as the Coho salmon.”

AB 2284 would also, under a very limited scope, allow law enforcement to stop and question drivers transporting irrigation piping, which must be in plain view. The vehicles must be traveling on gravel or unpaved roads within public resource land or timber preserve zones of more than 50,000 acres. Law enforcement would not be able to stop and question those transporting irrigation piping on timber preserve zone lands under 50,000 acres, unless the landowner has filed a written statement giving law enforcement permission to so.

“On many occasions law enforcement officers have seen people entering these resource lands with irrigation supplies in plain sight,” Chesbro said. “They do not have the authority to pull them over and simply ask questions, possibly stopping a marijuana cultivation site before it is planted. Preventing a site from being established is the best way to protect the forests and watersheds, safeguard the public and reduce the risk to law enforcement officers, who often face armed suspects while investigating established sites.”

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