Federal police on Wednesday raided a massive cannabis farm with connections to a Canadian tobacco company on tribal land in Modoc County, remote northwestern California.
According to Benjamin Wagner, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Indian Affairs seized more than 12,000 plants and 100 pounds of processed marijuana from the Pit River XL Ranch reservation off the Interstate 395 at Alturas. .
Officers raided both the grow room and an “event center” near a casino, authorities said. No one was arrested and no federal charges are pending, prosecutors said.
The raid on tribal lands will no doubt raise concerns for other tribes considering growing cannabis, after a 2014 Federal Justice Department memo was interpreted as meaning that tribal reserves — technically and legally, in some ways, sovereign nations — were free. to develop their own marijuana policies. At least one California tribe, the Pinoleville Pomo Tribe, had publicly announced plans to build a commercial cannabis farm on their land in Mendocino County.
But what was going on in Modoc County puts Pomo’s plans to shame.
“The volume of marijuana that the XL facility alone could produce, estimated at approximately 40,000-60,000 plants, exceeds any previous known commercial marijuana cultivation activity anywhere in the 34-county Eastern District,” Wagner said in a press release.
The farm, a complex of numerous greenhouses, was the brainchild of Phillip De Rosa, the tribe’s alleged president, and Jerry Montour, a 58-year-old Mohawk who lives in Canada and, according to the search warrant, funded the Alturas operation.
Montour is CEO of Canadian tobacco giant Grand River Enterprises (a connection that certainly raises old claims that RJ Reynolds and Phillip Morris are trying to buy up huge swaths of Humboldt and Mendocino counties in preparation for legalization), which sells tobacco in the US, Canada and Germany.
Montour was also reportedly convicted in the late 1980s for smuggling 37 kilograms of cannabis between Mexico and Canada. Thereafter, Grand River Enterprises became one of the largest and most successful tobacco companies in Canada.
The culture came to the attention of the FBI through a tipster – Wendy Del Rosa, sister of tribal chairman Phillip. Wendy Del Rosa told authorities that the breeding was not an official tribal project and that the tribe wanted the federal government to “close this illegal drug operation,” according to the search warrant’s affidavit.
Read the search warrant for yourself here. We will update this post as the story develops.