Officials believe the recent California desert killings may have resulted from a dispute over cannabis. After responding to a wellness check request outside the El Mirage community, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies recently discovered the bodies of six individuals at a remote dirt crossroad in the Mojave Desert.
Deputies found the victims in and near two vehicles at a remote intersection after one of the victims called the police and said that he had been shot but didn’t know his location. After tracking the victim’s phone’s location, deputies discovered five bodies in a Chevy Trailblazer and a Dodge Caravan as well as a sixth body some distance away.
Sheriff Shannon Dicus has now revealed that law enforcement officers arrested five suspects in San Bernardino County. According to Sgt. Michael Warrick, the incident “appears to be a dispute over marijuana,” although the scale and reason for the cannabis dispute is still unknown.
California voters legalized recreational cannabis in 2016 via Proposition 64, a ballot initiative that allowed adults 21 years of age and older to possess and consume up to an ounce of recreational cannabis, as well as grow up to six plants at home for personal consumption.
The measure was endorsed by many public figures, including Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; the legislation also was thought to cripple the illegal cannabis trade in California.
However, Sheriff Shannon Dicus says the San Bernardino County desert and other places have been under siege by illegal cannabis growers after the measure’s passage. The sheriff says his office executed 411 illegal grow-related search warrants in 2023 and seized 655,000 cannabis plants, 74,000 pounds of processed cannabis and approximately $370 million. Officers executed 11 of these search warrants in the area immediately adjacent to where the murders took place.
The El Mirage incident is the latest act of violence tied to the cannabis black market in remote areas of California where the cannabis black market is flourishing. Law enforcement is becoming increasingly concerned with the rising death toll and general violence involved in these incidents, especially as illegal cannabis spreads across inland desert communities in Southern California.
The California desert region is now home to multitudes of illegal cannabis farms and has seen a marked increase in violent crime, say residents and law enforcement. Sheriff Shannon Dicus observes that the cannabis black market has become a plague in the San Bernardino County region and notes that cartel activity is certainly involved.
This tragedy highlights the safety risks that the black market poses in the jurisdictions where cannabis is legal. Actors such as Trulieve Cannabis Corp. (CSE: TRUL) (OTCQX: TCNNF) are working to avail safe marijuana products to users in lieu of untested products from illicit sources.
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