sex trafficking

Here at The Free Thought Project, we have documented numerous examples of how government’s war on drugs ruins the lives of innocent people and fuels the phenomenon called “policing for profit.”

In an investigative report by Shoshana Walter published at Reveal, we see the saddening, infuriating way in which these two products of the drug war come together in the Emerald Triangle, three counties in northern California that represent the largest cannabis-producing region in the U.S.

The good old days of the 60s – where hippies came to escape society and grow cannabis for a west coast population steeped in peace, love and mind expansion – have taken a turn for the worse.

It is still home to virtuous people making a living and respecting human rights and the environment. However, the Emerald Triangle has unfortunately been tarnished by the presence of psychopaths and police preying on the populace.

Walter relays the tales of female “trimmigrants” who trim cannabis buds during the June-to-November harvest. Some of them attend Humboldt State University, and others are attracted from farther away with the promise of good money to be made.

The investigation reveals a disturbing reality where some owners of pot farms, which are often located far from any town, force their trimmigrant workers into sex and sometimes don’t even pay them for work. One teenage trimmer described being locked in an oversized toolbox with breathing holes if she threatened to run away.

The problem is not that they are working in the cannabis industry, but the fact that government prohibition is perpetuating it as a black market — allowing for society’s worst to flourish. 

Federal government still classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug – the most restrictive form of prohibition – and California has yet to legalize its recreational use. The state legalized medical cannabis in 1996, which fueled an explosive growth of cannabis farming in the Emerald Triangle, but the half-baked effort at decriminalization has brought little change to the region. Instead, greed prompted some unscrupulous players to seize on the obscurity of the black market.

Just as astonishing as the rise in sexual exploitation and the number of girls who go missing, is the stance of law enforcement. Rather than devote their resources to solving the real crimes of underage sex trafficking and slavery, cops focus on raiding grow operations – legal or not – to seize cash and assets for financial gain.

“Despite evidence of a growing problem, law enforcement has put few resources into investigations of trafficking and sexual exploitation. Instead, police have conducted stings targeting prostitutes and sometimes their pimps. And the Eureka police chief recently posed as a grower online to attract trimmers, only to warn them not to come…

Marijuana raids also have become a large source of revenue for local law enforcement agencies. During raids, officers have confiscated not just harvests, but also money, guns and even farming equipment.

Humboldt County law enforcement agencies made 100 seizures of property and funds last year, including from farmers who had legal permission to grow. The value of the assets totaled more than $2 million – more per capita than was pulled from the state’s 15 most populous counties combined, state data shows. Mendocino County’s marijuana eradication team receives a finder’s fee from a pool of seized funds for every case it initiates, in addition to a nearly 50 percent cut of any confiscated funds.

The result is tantamount to tunnel vision, said Kyla Baxley, the district attorney’s office investigator. “They’re going in to eradicate marijuana, and they would probably tell you nothing else is happening but the drugs.”

That perspective seems to pervade law enforcement agencies across the Emerald Triangle.”

Part of the problem is that trimmigrants working at an illegal grow operation are very reluctant to call police, if they can even manage to get a line of communication. Calling the cops may rule out future jobs, too.

One teen started working for a grower when she was 12, and was “passed around” to pay off the grower’s debts. She ran away to a youth homeless shelter, which turned out to be a hunting ground for pimps as many other vulnerable girls also worked on cannabis farms.

Such is the legacy of the black market created and perpetuated by government prohibition. The cannabis industry that was born in the Emerald Triangle – to meet the demand for this plant that humans have enjoyed and benefited from for thousands of years – grew during the era of prohibition.

Instead of developing like any other industry, such as the legal drug alcohol, northern California cannabis farming evolved underground. And that brought with it the scourge of unscrupulous growers preying on other human beings; growers who’ve become experts at hiding their misdeeds along with their grow operations.

Thanks to the war on drugs, “policing for profit” now takes priority over stopping the underground sex trafficking and slavery ring.

As we witness the development of the cannabis industry in states that have fully legalized the plant, nowhere do we hear about sexual exploitation, slavery, and missing persons. Operating in the light of day tends to promote a fair and just way of doing business.

Alongside these miscreant growers in the Emerald Triangle who abuse girls, are the cops exploiting prohibition by raiding cannabis farms for profit. Instead of acknowledging that supply will never be curtailed, and diverting their resources to real crimes of sexual exploitation and slavery, police departments are content to take their own cut from the trade.