Lawmakers soon may enlist the nation’s spymaster to help fight Mexican drug traffickers and others who use federal land in California and elsewhere to grow marijuana.
A provision of the 2012 intelligence authorization bill calls on the director of national intelligence to assess and report on how federal intelligence agencies can help park rangers, fish and wildlife wardens, and other U.S. land managers weed out pot gardens and other activities operated by foreign drug traffickers.
The bill, now before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also directs the top spy to consult with federal public land managers to identify intelligence and information-sharing gaps related to drug trafficking. The House passed its version of the bill, HR 1892, in September.
U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., who wrote the provision, said the nation’s intelligence apparatus needs to address marijuana grown on public land because of the presence of foreign drug traffickers and the accompanying threat of violence.
“We don’t know what they’re doing with the money, where the money goes, whose bank account it ends up in,” he said of foreign drug traffickers who operate on public land. “They’re here ruining our national resources, and they’re putting our citizens at risk. Hikers can’t go into the field for fear they’ll be harmed. Wildlife doesn’t have a chance.”
U.S. law enforcement believes that hundreds of millions of dollars generated from public-land gardens flows to Mexico, said David Prince, assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in San Francisco.
While federal officials suspect that Mexican organized crime bosses might be involved, authorities say they have not proven a direct link between marijuana gardens on U.S. public lands and the major Mexico-based drug cartels.