Enforcing marijuana laws in the United States cost 3.6 billion dollars a year, that's according to the most recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union.
Also, based on FBI reports, one person is arrested every 42 seconds for marijuana. Trinity County Sheriff Bruce Haney discussed how this drug is affecting their area, which is widely known to be one of the largest cannabis producing regions.
“Everyone has been impacted by what has become the illegal marijuana trade,” said Sheriff Haney.
Law enforcement agents showed us the the aerial view marijuana gardens in Trinity County. Looking outside the helicopter it was easy to spot thousands of plants. Agents say there are several reasons why people come out to Trinity County to grow, it's a very remote area so there is not a lot of traffic and its cheap to purchase the land.
“We haven't been able to keep a real good handle on it and I think it’s why individuals in the marijuana trade choose counties like Trinity because of the limited law enforcement resources,” said Sheriff Haney.
A majority of the marijuana supplied to the United States is grown in California, growers are willing to take the risk because the payoff is so high.
“It’s like rolling the dice, do I get away with it and make a big profit, a lot of people want to discuss it is this medicine or business, and 99 percent is business making money,” said Sheriff Haney.
Sheriff Haney was hired by the department in 1999, since then he has seen criminal activity go up associated with the grows.
“As we get closer to the harvest time of year people want to protect their crop and go to extreme measures to do that and that can be arming themselves and using violence,” said Sheriff Haney.
People living in close proximity are in danger as well.
“Become the victims of vandalism and burglary and thefts,” said Sheriff Haney.
Sheriff Haney says Trinity County has traditionally attracted a lot of tourists, but now it's becoming a destination to avoid because of the marijuana industry.
“People who have traditionally hiked and hunted in these areas no longer come here because they are afraid of what they are going to come across, including armed individuals who are going to protect their crops by whatever means necessary,” said Sheriff Haney.
There is also the risk of exposure to harmful chemicals.
“We realize if we don't provide a safe environment for people to visit trinity county then no matter how much we put in to promote Trinity County it’s going to be difficult for people to come here,” said Sheriff Haney.
It is against federal and state law, and proving to be a discouraging battle for law enforcement.
“It's a very profitable business I don't know where the answer lies, is it legalization is it decriminalization, I don't know where that answer is so for now until the state and society determines what they want to do with it we are going to continue to fight it because we are continuing to see negative impacts there is no doubt,” said Sheriff Haney.
So far this year, Trinity County law enforcement has raided 56 gardens, including the ones on public and private land. Sheriff Haney says the number will only increase as harvest season approaches.