Now on Google Earth: marijuana fields

CALIFORNIA: Venture into the virtual world of Google’s satellite imagery and one can find, throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains, what appear to be very real, very large marijuana grows.

Visible to anyone with an Internet connection, the sites appear to be well-financed operations, frequently with bulldozed sites, long greenhouses and even staff. And they go to the heart of an ongoing county debate over whether suppliers of medical marijuana dispensaries should be regulated, both in remote mountain areas and in residential neighborhoods.

“If we do nothing, all of the socio-environmental issues we’re currently seeing will get worse,” said Supervisor Zach Friend, who has asked county staff to look into the issue as part of a suite of pot club rules the county board could weigh in September. “It’s not a secret that this is an issue that needs to be addressed, and I’m hopeful that what we come up with returns neighborhoods to neighbors and environmentally sensitive areas back to nature.”

It’s not known whether the apparent marijuana operations depicted on Google Earth are street suppliers, sell directly to local medical marijuana dispensaries, or both. But officials say that is part of the problem — marijuana is illegal under federal law, and while its medical use is allowed in the state, there are no standards for how the industry should be run.

Read full article @ Santa Cruz Sentinel