State Marijuana Eradication Program Poses Environmental, Human Hazards, Residents Testify
January 21, 1999, Redway, CA: Eyewitnesses and former CAMP (California Against Marijuana Planting) employees testified at hearings Monday to the environmental and human damage caused by the government's aerial marijuana eradication program. Witnesses largely focused on the dangers posed by the program's low-flying helicopter sweeps and camouflaged, gun-toting agents.
"Every officer that's been in a helicopter involved in the CAMP program, if they were going to tell you the truth, would say: 'Yes, we have flown under 500 feet' [in violation of legally mandated guidelines,]" testified Gary Holder, a former deputy sheriff and CAMP officer. "We got as close as we could to treetops to hover; we have looked into peoples windows."
California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer called the use of helicopters and paramilitary personnel "unwarranted and inappropriate"
because marijuana poses minimal harms to public safety. Gieringer said the only way to control marijuana cultivation would be through legally
Several other witnesses complained that the raids posed hazards to wildlife and livestock, disrupted work and school, and risked public safety.
The Civil Liberties Monitoring Project (CLMP) and The Rights Organization (TRO) organized Monday's hearings on behalf of plaintiffs in a federal suit against the government's 1990 Operation Greensweep, in which helicopters and armed troops invaded a remote wilderness area of Humbolt County to eradicate marijuana. As part of the settlement in
that case, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was ordered to issue guidelines for marijuana eradication operations in Northern California and hold public hearings.
The BLM's proposed guidelines are open to public comment until February 10, 1999. Copies are available from the offices of NORML Legal Committee member Ron Sinoway at (707) 923-3905 or the CLMP at (707) 923-4646.
For more information, please contact either Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858 or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML
Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.
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