Mexican Cartel-Style Violence Spreading in California over Marijuana Grow Fields

Contrary to political rhetoric, Mexican cartel-style killings and gun battles appear to have already reached the U.S. and are spreading — particularly in California. The region experienced an explosive growth of cartel marijuana grow operations that are taking advantage of legalization and lax laws.

This week, federal authorities clashed with one of two gunmen who are accused of killing a family of six — including a 16-year-old female and her baby. The murders took place last month in Tulare County, California, in what some authorities have dubbed a cartel killing.

On early Friday morning, federal agents arrested Noah David Beard, 25, and Angel “Nanu” Uriarte, 35, the Los Angeles Times reported. The article identified both men as Sureno Gang members. Uriarte clashed with federal agents in a gun battle. He sustained multipole injuries and had to undergo surgery. He is expected to survive. Authorities arrested Beard without a shootout.

The two men are facing six murder charges and several enhancements filed by the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office over the January 16 mass killing. Authorities also carried out several raids at homes and prison cells targeting the Nuestra Familia gang. Both the Nuestra Familia and the Surenos have a history of working with Mexican drug cartels.

According to the Los Angeles Times, authorities found the 16-year-old mother in a ditch cradling her baby in her arms. Both victims were shot in the head. Initially, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux called the murder the work of a cartel, however, he later tried to walk back the claim, the Times reported.

Tulare County and other counties in Northern California have seen a dramatic rise in cartel presence due to the legal marijuana trade and lax laws around it. Additionally, various cartel figures who have become famous in Mexico are actually U.S. citizens. Among these is Jose Maria “Z-43” Guizar Valencia a top leader with the Los Zetas cartel who was born in Tulare California and is currently awaiting sentencing on various federal drug trafficking charges in Texas.

According to a report from USA Today, since California legalized marijuana for recreational use, Mexican cartels have moved their grow operations to the U.S. where they can hide among legal farms. The publication reported that in 2021, there were 10,000 illegal grow operations in Mendocino County alone. The issue has already led to various high-profile cases similar to the one in Tulare County last month.

One of the main draws for cartels is that operating an illegal grow is only a misdemeanor offense in California and that business is cash only. Additionally, the region does not have enough law enforcement officers to patrol those grow sites and enforce laws against illegal growing operations, USA Today reported.



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