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Attorney General Eric Holder says the federal government will announce "relatively soon" how they intend to respond to the states of Washington and Colorado legalizing marijuana.

An under-appreciated impact of a continued federal assault on state marijuana laws is the affect on our public land. In California, the federal crackdown has cornered the medical marijuana industry into taking up practices that couldn't be less eco-friendly if we tried.

On the Office of National Drug Control's website they list their top priorities: marijuana, prescription drug abuse, methamphetamine,... public lands?

Unfortunately, criminal organizations are exploiting some of our most pristine public and tribal lands as grow sites for marijuana... The U.S. Forest Service reports that nearly 88 percent of the 3,531,443 plants eradicated from National Forests were eradicated in California. Marijuana grow sites are typically in excess of 1,000 plants per site and sometimes more than 200,000 plants.
-Office of National Drug Control Policy
Our national forests are being exploited because the federal ban on marijuana makes regulation impossible. We're left with a thriving industry, legal under state law, that has little state or local oversight. If you want to know why medical marijuana growers are driven into national forests, look at what happened to Matt Cohen.
In Mendocino County and beyond, Cohen, 34, was applauded as a leader who worked with local officials to initiate a program... In a county infamous for black market marijuana growing and trafficking – and distrust of the government – nearly 100 local pot farmers signed up for the oversight program in two years. They paid more than $8,000 in annual fees each to let the sheriff inspect their gardens, count their plants and enforce environmental standards and rules for fencing and security.
In October 2011, Cohen's farm, Northstone Organics, was raided by DEA agents. They destroyed his business. They also destroyed the county officials' hopes of regulating how medical marijuana is grown in their county.
"I really question the motivation of the federal authorities," Mendocino County Supervisor John McCowen said. "This effort will drive medical marijuana back underground, increase black market diversion and keep marijuana, illegal, dangerous and profitable."

Supervisor Mark Lovelace of neighboring Humboldt, one of three counties that sent officials to Cohen's garden to study the Mendocino compliance program, said the action undermined hopes to rein in unbridled marijuana cultivation in rural California counties through local oversight.

Soon after Cohen's farm was raided, the Mendocino County ordinance regulating state law compliance and environmental standards of medical marijuana grows was repealed under pressure from the federal government. Federal officials told Mendocino supervisors that the county faced litigation unless they repealed the program. No regulations for you.

When the DEA targets locally regulated growers, growers hide away as far as possible from regulations. Like in national forests. The enormous size of our forests makes it easy to evade detection. If detected, the lowly farm workers might get caught, but the owners retain anonymity.

The fragile habitats of California's North Coast are among the many losers of federal marijuana prohibition. When local officials try to enforce environmental standards, they are threatened with federal litigation. When growers try to be proactive and seek the supervision of local officials, they get busted by the DEA. As California pours millions of dollars into protecting endangered species on preservation lands, marijuana growers are dispersing pesticides and poisons, draining streams and rivers, illegally mowing down timber, and grading mountaintops flat for sprawling greenhouses. Our national forests are a priority for the ONDCP because circumventing state medical marijuana laws is a priority for the ONDCP. So look out for how the federal government plans to respond to legalization in Colorado and Washington. Their response will have an impact beyond just access to a plant.
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