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Posted at 7:20 PM ET, 11/18/2010

Pot growers portrayed as terror threat

By Jeff Stein

What were they smoking?

Federal, state and local officials carrying out a counter-terrorism drill in Northern California Wednesday played out a scenario in which local marijuana growers set off bombs and took over the Shasta Dam, the nation’s second largest, to free an imprisoned comrade.

According to an account in the Redding (Calif.) Record Searchlight, the 12-hour drill was part of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Critical Infrastructure Crisis Response Exercise Program, begun in 2003.

“More than 250 people from more than 20 agencies took part,” said Sheri Harral, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Reclamation, according to the paper.

Harral said the drill took 18 months to plan and cost the bureau alone $500,000. The other agencies covered their own costs.

The paper made only passing reference to the scenario's designation of pot growers as terrorist villians.

In the otherwise realistic mock-terror scenario, the marijuana growers’ “red cell” set off bus and car bombs as distractions, took over the dam with three hostages, and then “threatened to flood the Sacramento River by rolling open the drum gates atop the dam,” according to the paper.

No matter how worthwhile a drill, said marijuana legalization advocates, envisioning pot growers as a terrorist threat in laid-back Northern California was ridiculous.

"That was so stupid," said Dale Gieringer, head of the California chapter of NORML, the decades-old National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

"I don't know what inspired it,” Gieringer told the Drug War Chronicle. “I can see the need to do better pat downs for air travelers to make sure they're not holding joints in their underpants, but this? It sounds like something some yahoo redneck county sheriff would dream up."

Harral did not return the Chronicle’s call for comment and could not be immediately reached by SpyTalk.

In a confidential catalogue of terrorist threats, uncovered by Congressional Quarterly in 2005, the Department of Homeland Security did not include the region's marijuana growers.

In August, however, the Big Valley News in Madera, Calif reported that the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program "has been studying the escalating violence associated with the growing of cannabis throughout California."

It said, "The increasing involvement of highly organized drug trafficking organizations protecting their investment or competing for territory and market share has elevated the dangers surrounding cannabis growing from 'pot users merely growing their stash' to...a 'marijuana war.'"

By Jeff Stein  | November 18, 2010; 7:20 PM ET
Categories:  Homeland Security, Intelligence  
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I love it when people who've obviously never smoked weed try to envision what people who smoke weed might do. If these guys had done a drill in which a bunch of stoners got totally baked and ate all Doritos in Redding, CA, before passing out on their couches listening to a Widespread Panic album, now THAT would have been a realistic drill.

Posted by: cassady | November 18, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

No wonder the nation is being groped at airports.

Posted by: AirBoss | November 18, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Reefer Madness 2010: Terror of the Dammed

Posted by: psyberdawg | November 18, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

In an era of alarming stupidity and Fox "News" types of lies and propaganda, I can imagine such a revival of 'Reefer Madness.' Fortunately, most Americans now see right through the costly war on weed stupidity.

Posted by: revbookburn | November 18, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Just when you think government could not get any more screwed up they pull this. But then what should we expect from the same clowns that have spent 9 years, almost a trillion dollars and still cannot bring a real terrorist to justice.

Posted by: metroman76 | November 18, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Pot-growing terrorists? The people who planned this farce are the ones who are on drugs.

Posted by: braincramp | November 18, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

I love it when people who've obviously never smoked weed try to envision what people who smoke weed might do. If these guys had done a drill in which a bunch of stoners got totally baked and ate all Doritos in Redding, CA, before passing out on their couches listening to a Widespread Panic album, now THAT would have been a realistic drill.

Posted by: cassady

Gee watching someone admit that they do dope in a National newspaper while it is still a Federal crime is even more interesting.

Posted by: dottydo | November 18, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

This is the threat they are planning to thwart??? They are not concerned when someone comes armed at a rally and Presidential speech, when bigots protest a mosque, when people claim the President is Hitler, or lunatics disrupt Townhall meetings, when women's clinics are stalked and employees threatened, but they are threatened by pot smokers??? We are in more trouble than we ever imagined. Heaven help up if we have a real problem.

Posted by: xargaw1224 | November 18, 2010 9:35 PM | Report abuse

The way I hear it, pot farmers are using illegal immigrants to behead respectable Republican citizens.

It's that there dope, it makes 'em go crazy. Turns 'em into sex fiends, too. Can't let that sort of thing get started, no sirree.

Posted by: info53 | November 18, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

I thought is was as far fetched as everyone else, but then I remembered reading an article that Mexican cartels are now growing LOTS of plants in Califoria, so they don't have to smuggle it across the border .

So, while most pot grower/lovers would be deeply offended by this portrayal and just want to enjoy good smoke and make some cash, the Mex cartels are beyond nasty.

Posted by: DrWho2 | November 18, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Stein you shortsighted moron. If they held a drill like this at Falcon Reservoir on the US-Mexico border in Texas, people wouldn't think it was a drill. You have to train somewhere behind the lines to prepare to fight on the front lines.

People are getting shot in that lake all of the time by the Mexican drug cartels. Ciudad Juarez Mexico's is one of the most dangerous cities in the world and it is just across the river from El Paso (and you liberal elites on Capitol Hill get nervous when Anacostia is just across the bridge). You're absolutely clueless about what is going on down there in Texas. No wonder (Texas) Governor Perry wants to bring out Texas' National Guard to defend the Texas border. Washington DC is too ignorant to know that it needs to be defended!

(BTW, asking NORML to comment on how we should defend our national security. That's kind of like asking NORML to provide a useful comment on.... well... on about anything)

Posted by: reston75 | November 18, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

So, did the drill generate a lot of smoke or not ??? LOL

Posted by: | November 18, 2010 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Man they take any opportunity in their propaganda war don't they? On the other hand I have to complement them for picking the most improbable threat possible short of creating a terrorist cell made up of sad clowns with small cars... Talk about mixed messages.

However, the idea of a cartel based cell of hyper-violent growers lurking on federal land I could find believable. There's some real difference between domestic pot growers looking to stay within the law & the cartels who're all about profiting from all types of illegal drugs at any cost.

Posted by: Nymous | November 19, 2010 12:53 AM | Report abuse

Pot growers and traffickers made Mrs. Clinton call Mexico (oh, horror) a failed country. She didn't miss the bull's eye by much, in my book. Last week we've got, in San Jose, CA, a 100% Mexican kidnapping, when the victim(who tried jump out the window from the cops, upon being freed) and the perpetrators all posessed Mexican names. So, instead of praising the cops who tried, for one, to preempt a gory situation you so highfaulting make fun out of them. Do you like the TSA, with the forbidden printer cartridges, better?

Posted by: felix155 | November 19, 2010 1:44 AM | Report abuse

Obviously, if the government says pot is bad, it *MUST* be bad. C'mon people. It's clear that laws are always perfect. Duh. Just like segregation laws must have been morally right prior to the civil rights movement. There's *NO WAY* those laws were based on outmoded thinking. It's important not to ever question your country's laws, people. How else can order be maintained? Obviously, intelligent debate based on scientific research equals anarchy. Silly, little pot smokers -- you're obviously BAD.

Posted by: jr_cville | November 19, 2010 2:18 AM | Report abuse

What a ridiculous premise. Any such standoff could easily be resolved with snack foods and Mountain Dew. I'm so glad to know that my irrationally paranoid government is spending lots of taxpayer money to prepare for something that would never happen. I can't wait to read about their next brilliant training exercise in preparation for the zombie apocalypse.

Posted by: Chip_M | November 19, 2010 2:24 AM | Report abuse

It's time for us all to stop being ignorant hypocrites and start being TRUE conservatives!

Pragmatic libertarians (minimal-statists) and "true" Conservatives agree that many, if not most, of society's problems are caused by government usurping choices that could better be made by individuals and that government is just about the worst way of doing almost anything. Where libertarianism normally parts company with "fake" conservatism is over moral issues. But a true conservative would have no problem with agreeing, that what people do with their own bodies, and especially in the privacy of their own home, should be supremely their business, and that anything else would entail ignoring the basic tenet of limited government.

Fake-Conservatism on the other hand has much in common with socialism; Both Leftists and Fake-Conservatives appear to harbor the belief that nature does not exist and that any human can be anything he wants to be, or can for the "greater good", be "re-educated" into being. Leftists therefore think little boys can be conditioned into preferring dolls over toy soldiers, and similarly Fake-conservatives believe that adults can be coerced into choosing alcohol over marijuana. A true conservative, just like a pragmatic libertarian, would immediately reject both ideas as nonsense.

If you support prohibition then you are NOT a conservative.
Conservative principles, quite clearly, ARE:

1) Limited, locally controlled government.
2) Individual liberty coupled with personal responsibility.
3) Free enterprise.
4) A strong national defense.
5) Fiscal responsibility.

Prohibition is actually an authoritarian War on the Constitution and all civic institutions of our great nation.

It's all about the market and cost/benefit analysis. Whether any particular drug is good, bad, or otherwise is irrelevant! As long as there is demand for any mind altering substance, there will be supply; the end! The only affect prohibiting it has is to drive the price up, increase the costs and profits, and where there is illegal profit to be made criminals and terrorists thrive.

The cost of criminalizing citizens who are using substances no more harmful than similar things that are perfectly legal like alcohol and tobacco, is not only hypocritical and futile, but also simply not worth the incredible damage it does.

Afghani farmers produce approx. 93% of the world's opium which is then, mostly, refined into street heroin then smuggled throughout Eastern and Western Europe.

Both the Taliban and the terrorists of al Qaeda derive their main income from the prohibition-inflated value of this very easily grown crop, which means that Prohibition is the "Goose that laid the golden egg" and the lifeblood of terrorists as well as drug cartels. Only those opposed, or willing to ignore this fact, want things the way they are.


Posted by: malcolmkyle | November 19, 2010 6:50 AM | Report abuse

Why isn't the war on marijuana considered part of the excesses of the "nanny state" that those of the hard right are always shouting about? If the government decided that since alcohol consumption takes so many lives, a lot more than pot ever will by itself, and it was time to bring back prohibition, the outcry from all sides would be deafening. And rightfully so. Perhaps the always informative Dottydo, could educate us on that point.

Posted by: curtb | November 19, 2010 7:13 AM | Report abuse

You guys are what's wrong with America, you're ignorant and gullible, and you'll follow an idiot over a cliff.

You get wound up by a stupid news report written by a reporter who didn't check facts, didn't talk to the guys who set up the exercise, and hasn't seen how these exercise scenarios are designed.
Typically, an exercise starts with a scenario that will lead to a test of all the capabilities being exercised. To catch the participants' interest, the assumptions are often a little weird, and definitely the designers don't want to use any "real" group who will be offended by being the red force. (Nymous and Chip M above ALMOST figured this out.) If the scenario simply said "the red force" took over X, Y and Z, and did such-and-such, the exercise participants would go to sleep at the opening briefing.

Can we now return to our scheduled program?

Posted by: JKGordon | November 19, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Cheney's theocons demonizing everything they don't like as a "terrorist threat"

This is the stupidest thing the government has ever spent a half million dollars on.

Posted by: areyousaying | November 19, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

If you legalized the stoners wouldnt hold up your damn or the federal government, nor would the Mexicans outgun us at the border. Its only a matter of time. Why wait? So you can throw more people in jail while real crooks sell crack?

Posted by: spk202 | November 19, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Teach your children to drink "Jesus Approved" alcohol instead - never mind it's far more dangerous and addictive. After all, "it's OK because it's legal"

Posted by: areyousaying | November 19, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse


This is the Most egregious of All expenditures and a False message!

Posted by: friedamae | November 19, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Sure makes one question the intelligence of the "Intelligence" community.

Posted by: temptxan | November 19, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

If/when the Mexican cartels take over control of the pot growers in California, this scenario would be very possible. If you don't think it's possible, you don't have a good understanding of organized crime in general, or of organized drug criminals as they currently operate in Mexico and Latin America.

Posted by: DoTheRightThing | November 19, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I am sure there is a government contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars at stake here. Our freedoms are being sold to the highest bidder. Just look at the new scatter x-ray machines in airports... why are they there? because former homeland security czar Michael Chertoff is making a ton of money of them along with the rest of the investors at the Chertoff Group.

Posted by: clintatl | November 19, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

I guess it's the end of the year - that means spend the rest of the budget on frivolous things just like every gov agency. It just shows their utter lack of understanding of the growers themselves. They want to stay in the shadows - hijacking a dam is a sure way to interrupt your revenue stream.

Posted by: phreshy | November 19, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Apparently they demanded the release of their comrades or a ten-pound bag of Oreo cookies.

Posted by: JRM2 | November 19, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the poster upstream who says the main idea is to test agency capabilities. But don't minimize the propaganda value. Imagine if they had substituted "marijuana growers" with "renegade Whiskey distillers". The outcry would be huge.

This is just another subtle dig at the marijuana industry, and its end users , who have become a huge threat to the revenues of alcohol distributors everywhere.

Posted by: Capitolidea1 | November 19, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

The organization of Mexico based drug cartels in California is a valid concern. Mocking the preparations with talk of 'stoners' being the threat is distracting and very FOXnews like. Way to go POST! Dumb it down for us common folk.

Posted by: reddingwellness | November 19, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

It's the drug warriors who are financing the terrorists. Just look at the example of the alcohol war. When it stopped, the funding for criminals stopped. Of course we didn't have terrorists to finance back then - maybe if we had the alcohol war would still be going on. Wise up and stop the drug war. The only ones who benefit are the terrorists, the criminals and those who make their 'honest' living fighting to maintain the liquor industry's legal, but unconstitutional, monopoly on the recreational drug trade.

Posted by: cduwel | November 19, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

This is the same type of 'reefer madness' propaganda the prohibitionists tried to feed the public when marijuana was made illegal in the 1930's. Legalize and regulate it like alcohol and it will no longer be worth the time of organized criminals to deal with just as it was with alcohol legalization.

We've heard the prohibitionists side, now
why not hear about some of the other side to be fair? Read "Marijuana Myths Marijuana Facts: A Review Of The Scientific Evidence " by Lynn Zimmer, Ph.D. and John P. Morgan, M.D., also Google: LEAP - Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, DPA - Drug Policy Alliance, NORML - National Orginization to Reform Marijuana Laws, and the MPP - the Marijuana Policy Project

Posted by: stel2112 | November 19, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

I could see social unrest happening because millions of marijuana users who are fed up with being made into criminals, more so than I could see the cartels pushing their weight around. The fact that our government is so anti marijuana, despite the science that says their fears are unfounded, not only reeks of hypocrisy but also smells of conspiracy: Can you say “Iran-Contra”?

Posted by: DrawingYou | November 20, 2010 2:58 AM | Report abuse

I could see social unrest happening because millions of marijuana users who are fed up with being made into criminals, more so than I could see the cartels pushing their weight around. The fact that our government is so anti marijuana, despite the science that says their fears are unfounded, not only reeks of hypocrisy but also smells of conspiracy: Can you say “Iran-Contra”?

Posted by: DrawingYou | November 20, 2010 2:59 AM | Report abuse

They are a threat.

Posted by: Kansasgirl | November 20, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

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