The Independent has reported that vineyards in America’s Washington state are being sold to grow Marijuana – a plant that could surpass grapes in value this year. For centuries farmers have replaced one crop with another as climate and its conditions have forced them to diversify.
Last year I blogged about the American Mid West abandoning its grain crops and turning to grape growing for wine. This has nothing to do with global warming – it is about profit. So, apparently, is the recent conversion to Marijuana further north in Washington State.
It appears that pot growers aren’t hiding their plants in remote woods and fields any more – they are growing them amongst the vines.
So far this summer, law enforcement officials in the Yakima Valley have converged on 7 vineyards that had been converted to marijuana. At least 5 had been recently purchased and one had been leased to pot growers by an unknowing owner.
Authorities believe some of the buyers are living in Mexico and their vineyards are producing tens of thousands of illegal marijuana plants. Crackdowns at the Canadian and Mexican borders have made it more difficult to ship Marijuana into the United States, prompting dealers to establish growing operations in the vineyards.
A bust of more than 60,000 plants on the Yakama Indian Reservation in 2004, one of the biggest nationwide at the time, was traced to organized crime in Mexico and valued at more than £17.5 million.
Drug enforcement teams have confiscated approximately 142,570 Marijuana plants valued at more than £70 million this spring and summer in the Yakima Valley alone, and they haven’t even begun their annual aerial surveillance.
In 2006 more than 144,000 plants were seized; the following year the total more than doubled to 296,611 plants – estimated to be only 10% of the illicit crop.
Washington’s central valley has long been recognized as an important pipeline in the drug trade with easy interstate access to Seattle, Portland and points east.
The Marijuana plants had been harvested beneath the grape vines and there have been reports of plants growing under lights in sheds on the properties as well as dedicated clearings in the middle of the vineyards devoted to Marijuana.
A tell tale give away is the increased use of water as Marijuana uses more water than grape vines and needs daily irrigation. Unkempt vineyards and grapes being cut from the vines too soon are also signs of Marijuana growers.
Most of the illegal plants are being found in various vineyards being leased or recently purchased in the Lower Valley and on the Yakama Reservation.
Sgt. Rick Beghtol, supervisor of Law Enforcement Against Drugs, believes all of the large Marijuana plantations recently uncovered are linked to one organization willing to make large investments to keep the operations going, and he’s putting together evidence that he hopes will initiate a federal indictment.
According to Beghtol here are also reports of farmers being randomly approached by men seeking to buy their vineyards, willing to pay exorbitant prices.
Other farmers have reported being asked to rent out their large shops for £5,000 a month without being told what they’d be used for, and Beghtol estimates the buying and leasing of vineyards has been going on for the past 5 years, and his crew is now putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
Unbelievably there is a batch of Marijuana doing the circuits which tastes of grapes and has dark purple buds in the states. Fortunately it is flavoured with nothing more than grape flavouring to hide more unpleasant tastes from mould. What will they think of next?
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