Legalization of medical marijuana in California is slowly destroying the Emerald Triangle’s 50 year tradition of cultivation. When U.S. authorities announced a crackdown on the medical marijuana industry in October, growers in states like California (where medical marijuana is legal) began to prepare for the worst.

Now, marijuana heaven has been sacked by a paramilitary unit armed with seven search warrants, military-grade weapons, and “Team Wolf,” a National Guard drug enforcement team. California’s Emerald Triangle, the nation’s largest cannabis producing region which is comprised of Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties, was the target of the massive raid. The region is driven by the marijuana industry, especially the black market, where citizens survive on the cash derived from the sale of marijuana products — so this hurts businesses that have been operating in their area since the ’60s. In Trinity County, for example, the outdoor marijuana harvest is a way of life. But with the arrival of the new medical marijuana market, and added competition, an increase in illegal trafficking has swept across the region. Recent helicopter flyovers discovered a large amount of grow and greenhouse activity in Emerald Triangle and prompted the raid, which is partly due to law enforcement focusing on the area following the legalization of medical marijuana in California.

The region has relied on the marijuana cultivation as a way of life since the ’60s, which is now being crippled after four days of armed raids where ​21,000 plants, 3,000 pounds of processed marijuana, 50 pounds of concentrated marijuana, 50,000 rounds of .50-caliber ammunition and 16 guns were seized by Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. While no individual or group was targeted, critics say the raids showed an excessive display of force and could really hurt the region’s pot-economy (which is already in decline). Law enforcement cited environmental damage caused by cannabis farming as a reason for the raids, which include​s​ altering natural water processes and the unsafe leakage of fertilizer from greenhouses. It’s also worth noting that the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office receives funding from the federal government for taking down the marijuana industry.

Meanwhile, the cannabis market in the region is still crashing as a result of California’s legalization of medical marijuana, which has left the region with a mass quantity of marijuana it cannot sell. As a result, the per-pound rate has dropped, the daily pay rate has dropped (many are now being​ paid​ in weed), and raids have increased. Many in the area are getting out of the marijuana industry altogether, and family-run businesses are closing down. Climate-controlled indoor grow rooms are on the rise, while ​the sun-grown marijuana cultivation tradition is on the decline. The regions’ tradition is dying as the government steps in​. The marijuana industry in the Emerald Triangle is now​ going further underground, which is partly due to increased enforcement on the federal level.

Details regarding plants seized and arrests made are currently unavailable. But the real question is when will the federal government and the existing pot economy find a way to ​work together as legalization becomes the norm.

Photo via MendoNews