By Lanny Swerdlow

The murders of six people involved in an illegal cannabis grow in San Bernardino County (SBC) were horrific and garnered the County almost as much attention as did the mass shooting in 2015 that killed 14 people at San Bernardino’s Inland Regional Center.

A press conference about the six people killed at the illegal cannabis grow was held by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office on January 29 to announce the apprehension of five suspects who they believe committed the mass murders.

At the press conference, SBC Sheriff Shannon Dicus stated  “What the supporters were saying about Prop. 64 is it would bring booming unregulated recreational marijuana under the rule of law and protect consumers and the environment. And it is recognition of decades of prohibition against aggressive enforcement of criminal laws that do not work. That’s false – 100%.”


No, it is not false – it is 100% accurate if Prop. 64 is allowed to work as intended. The SBC Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s offices have aided and abetted and done everything in their power to sabotage, undermine, suppress, and overturn Prop. 64.

The apocalyptic intonation of “we have unleashed a plague in California and the plague is the black market of marijuana” was picked up and used as a headline and a lead-in in several articles and news broadcasts of this tragic event. Prop. 64 reduced the illegality from a felony to a misdemeanor. The question that was not asked or addressed at the press conference was whether the “plague” of illegal marijuana grows was less, more, or the same before Prop. 64 passed.

Since illegal growers do not have a license to grow cannabis illegally, no one knows how many illegal grows there are. To get some kind of answer, I have filed a Freedom of Information request with the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office asking for the number of warrants issued to search illegal grows, the number of plants seized, and the amount of processed cannabis and dollars seized over the last 10 years by the Sheriff’s office.

The only real plague is the plague of stupidity and callousness of the San Bernardino Sheriff’s office evidenced by these attacks on Prop. 64 at an event that should have been mourning the loss of life over a plant and not attacking the very law that, if properly implemented, would substantially reduce this type of tragedy.

The bottom line of illicit grows and other illegal cannabis activities is that San Bernardino County prohibits any commercial cultivation, manufacture, or distribution of marijuana leaving criminal cultivation, manufacture, and distribution as the only outlet for the majority of SBC residents.

SBC still has not learned the lesson of alcohol prohibition which gave rise to crime, corruption, and murders. If SBC wants to put an end to illegal cultivation and its associated problems, it should follow the will of the voters of California and San Bernardino County by enacting reasonable regulations, licensing requirements and taxes for marijuana businesses that are similar to those regulating alcohol.

As dreadful as these murders were, perhaps there is a silver lining as this horrendous event might give us the room to bring the issue once again before the San Bernardino Board of Supervisors to allow cannabis businesses to operate in the unincorporated areas of the County.

This will only happen if enough people put maximum pressure on the Board’s Planning Dept. to develop regulations implementing the commercial business portions of Prop. 64. The Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project (MAPP) has not done enough in the way of cannabis advocacy at Inland Empire city council and county board meetings since the passage of Prop. 64. It is high time that we start again.

With Prop. 64 as our battering ram and the deaths of six people hanging over SBC for their continued prohibition of commercial cannabis businesses. The MAPP will be advocating for access to cannabis for everyone and an end to the commercial prohibition that flies in the face of the voters of California and SBC. History shows prohibition results in tragedies such as the six murders.

For more information go to Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project