Joel Millman reports in the Wall Street Journal:
WARM SPRINGS, Ore. — Police Chief Carmen Smith says he knows three things about suspected drug trafficker Artemio Corona: He’s from Mexico, prefers a Glock .40-caliber handgun, and is quite possibly growing marijuana on the Indian reservation that Mr. Smith patrols.
Last year, Mr. Smith’s detectives identified Mr. Corona as the alleged mastermind behind several large marijuana plantations on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in central Oregon. These “grows,” as police call them, had a harvest of 12,000 adult plants, with an estimated street value of $10 million. Five suspects were arrested and pleaded guilty to federal trafficking charges. But their alleged boss, Mr. Corona, who has not been indicted, remains a “person of interest” to federal authorities and hasn’t been found.
Cultivating marijuana in Indian country represents a new twist in the decades-old illicit drug trade between Mexico and the U.S., the world’s largest drug-consuming market. For decades, Mexican drug gangs grew marijuana in Mexico, smuggled it across the border, and sold it in the U.S. But in the past few years, they have done what any burgeoning business would do: move closer to their customers.
Illicit pot farms, the vast majority run by gangs with ties to Mexico, are growing fast across the country. The U.S. Forest Service has discovered pot farms in 61 national forests across 16 states this year, up from 49 forests in 10 states last year. New territories include public land in Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, Alabama and Virginia…