Hunters should be on the lookout this year for tell-tale signs of what might be illegal mountain marijuana grows in areas they might be scoping out for hunting sites in the hills and backcountry.
The problem of mountain marijuana grows still exists in the mountains of many Nevada counties, especially in the more remote areas of rural Nevada.
Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said recently that, whatever county a person may live or hunt in, “it is usually at this time that we begin to get reports of possible marijuana grows in remote areas, if there are any.”
He said Lincoln County had one last September in which one man was arrested onsite, and three others escaped. Two later turned themselves in because they could not take the cold, snowy weather in the mountains. The third man arrived suddenly at Spring Valley State Park’s campground and was detained by campers until authorities arrived.
Lee noted, “We have been fairly good at catching them, as aggressive as we can be in whatever county, and hit them hard. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still others, and some might be found even this year in areas even more remote than rural eastern Nevada.”
He said that Esmeralda and Nye County have had big problems lately, as have Eureka and White Pine in the past.
Lee said even though law enforcement is getting better at finding them, the growers are also getting more clever at hiding things. “They have become so much more adept at camouflage in the grows, so as not to be seen from the air. In particular, a place where the trees have been cut and the stumps spray painted over with natural forest colors to hide the site and blend in.”
Hunters and hikers out in the mountains should be alert, Lee cautioned. “If you happen to see black plastic piping leading to mountain sprints; see holes dug in a pattern where plants might be placed or are placed; or where a natural spring has been dammed up or diverted; or trees pulled back or tied back to give sunlight to the plants; piping tapping into livestock water supplies on the open range; garbage in unusual places; tents and/or other camping gear that seems out of place; or any other suspicious activities on public lands. If you see those type of things, mark the spot with a GPS and get out and report the location to authorities.”
Lee added, “It is possible hunters might come across a site that is unoccupied at the time, but don’t wait around. Get out. It will be checked out, whether on public lands or not. It might, in fact, be an old abandoned, unused site, but we’ll still go check to make sure.”
Lee said harvesting of the plants might be underway now, but that can also occur in September or October.
He said, “When Nevada legalized marijuana, I never believed the outdoor grows were really going to go away.”
Some have speculated that some of these growers may be selling to some of the legal dispensaries at much cheaper prices.
“Certainly not in all cases,” Lee said, “but it could be possible an authorized shop, having to spend maybe $60-$80 an ounce to grow their own plants on site, might be enticed to buy from an illegal mountain grower for $10 an ounce, but still sell it over the counter for top price and make a lot more money. I have no proof of that, but the possibility exists, and there are always ways around the strict marijuana regulations imposed by the state. I believe there is always going to be a blackmarket demand.”
Some marijuana grows have been found indoors, such as in Reno and Las Vegas, for example, and Lee said, “But it costs so much more to do it indoors. The illegal outdoor grows are much more cost-effective.”
Lee posed the question, “If a person buys marijuana at a legitimate shop in any of our counties, that really did come from an illegal mountain grow, out on the street, as long as it is under an ounce, how is a law enforcement officer going to prove where it came from?”