(The following letter was recently sent to local legislators.)

On Nov. 8, 2016, California voters passed Proposition 64, also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA).

Proposition 64 changed state law to legalize adult non-medical use of marijuana, created a system for regulating non-medical marijuana businesses, imposed taxes on marijuana, and changed penalties for marijuana-related crimes.

Secondary effects resulting from this new law have negatively impacted members of our local communities and various law enforcement duties in our county.

Illegal cannabis cultivation is having a deep, broad, and devastating impact on citizens in our county. Unpermitted growers want to avoid detection and often choose rural areas as prime places to hide their operations. These cannabis cultivations cause environmental issues (i.e., drop of well water levels, destroy our local desert, and kill wildlife by the toxic pesticides).

San Bernardino County currently has 1,085 known illegal cannabis cultivation locations within our jurisdiction and several unidentified illegal cultivation locations. Those cultivation sites range in size from one greenhouse to more than 200 greenhouses. In each known illegal cannabis cultivation location, water was being illegally pumped out of fire hydrants, and illegal water wells were being drilled into the ground.

There has been an increase in arrests and the confiscation of weapons-related to illegal cannabis cultivation locations. Our residents living near these areas are upset, and several have been victims of threats of violence from the cannabis tenders.

States that permit cannabis cultivation make it a felony to cultivate cannabis illegally. Two cities in our county, Adelanto and Needles, permit cannabis cultivation. The remaining cities in our county and the unincorporated areas of the county do not allow cannabis cultivation. Penalties for these illegal cannabis cultivations have been changed from a felony to a misdemeanor, which is not substantial for this type of crime.

With substantial punishment, we can take control of these illegal cultivation locations and maintain the safety of the residents in our county. I am seeking your assistance with this change.

(Shannon Dicus is the San Bernardino County sheriff.)

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