Heriberto Sicairos-Quintero of Gustine, California picked the wrong cabbage patch to tend. According the United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner, Herbert got caught tending a plot of 7,000 cannabis plants in the Shaver Lake - Jose Basin area of the Sierra National Forest in Fresno County, California.
Apparently, Herbert was paid to look out after the cash crop and “cook the grow”. He got busted when a volunteer team spotted the small field of mary jane on their way to reclaim another marijuana farm. As they made their way to the first site, they spotted a field full of happy pot. Upon investigation, they met 55 year old Heriberto on a path above the farm. He had a pistol tucked into his pants. Considering the value of the farm, one cannot tell if the pistol was to protect the pot or to protect Heriberto.
The case went all the way to trial. On December 11th, the Herbierto got the bad news. Guilty of manufacturing marijuana, aiding and abetting the manufacture of marijuana, and carrying a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
Last dance with mary jane
One more time to kill the pain
I feel summer creepin’ in and i’m
Tired of this town again
Growing cannabis is legal in the State of Colorado. Sort of. State law permits the cultivation and sale of the THC bearing plant. It still remains illegal under federal law. You can bet there will be a few test cases to find out whether growing pot under state law will hold up or be put down. At any rate, Herbert chose the wrong cabbage patch to tend. Next time Old McDonald has a farm, he might be better to choose one in Colorado! Eee-i- eee-i--ohh!
Of course, the feds made a “federal case” out of the bust, involving the U.S. Forest Service, with assistance from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Assistant United States Attorneys Ian L. Garriques, Kevin P. Rooney, and Karen A. Escobar prosecuted the case.
Personally, I am an anti-marijuana kind of guy. I think it can be a gateway drug for some. On the other hand, sending a cat to prison for 10 years in California when a grower in Colorado gets off free just does not seem fair. I also believe when it comes to marijuana, consumption needs to be a personal decision. It is not a gateway drug for many and has medicinal qualities other drugs lack. Alcohol can also be a gateway drug.
There is the public lands angle to the case. United States Attorney Wagner stated,
“The rampant cultivation of marijuana on remote public lands poses significant problems for the law enforcement community and threatens the public. Many growers have firearms and…damage ecosystems with excessive amounts of fertilizers, pesticides, and rodenticides, by diverting natural water sources, and by dumping trash and waste.”
Herbert got caught under Operation Save Our Sierras (SOS), a multi-agency marijuana eradication effort in Fresno County in the summer of 2009. They picked up over 423,000 marijuana plants on public land in less than two weeks. The federal government would rather spend money on sending a guy to federal prison rather than make money by taxing growers and leasing land. Jose Basin near Shaver Lake, California, is not a great place for illegal plant farms.
Deputy regional forester Beth Pendleton
Gil Kerlikowske Drug Czar
Near Jose Basin, California
Operation SOS was sponsored by the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy and led by the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office with the participation of the U.S. Forest Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, National Park Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, California National Guard, California Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, and California Department of Fish and Game. That is a lot of man power that could be spent on border security or catching rapist and cocaine dealers.
Ten years in federal prison for gardening seems like a long stretch. Maybe the grower deserved the sentence but the maintenance man? Uncle Sam is very possessive about it’s garden patches and eradicating ‘rodenticides’ in the Sierras. Welcome to Colorado!