Authorities in California caught a group of men cultivating a massive amount of marijuana on a Native American archeological site just north of Bakersfield, according to reports.
In Fresno Federal Court on April 3, Juan Carlos Lopez, 32, of Lake Elsinore, Rafael Torres-Armenta, 30, Javier Garcia-Castaneda, 38, Carlos Piedra-Murillo, 30 – the latter three from Mexico – plead guilty to the charges of “conspiring to cultivate marijuana with intent to distribute, cultivating marijuana, and damaging public land and natural resources in connection with a large-scale marijuana cultivation operation in the Domeland Wilderness area in the Sequoia National Forest,” Phillip A. Talbert, U.S. States Attorney, said in a press release.
Officers had uprooted 8,000 plants, seized 17 pounds of processed pot, a .22 caliber rifle, an air rifle, and ammunition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office added. The men were cultivating the marijuana on the Tübatulaba Native American archeological site located on designated federal wilderness property, The Fresno Beereported.
According to The Department of Justice, newly sprouted vegetation that had been planted after a fire in the area were dug up by the men to make room for the marijuana plants. Authorities said the men also rerouted water geared for trout sustainability to their operation site which covered an estimated 10-acres. Stacks of trash were also found at the marijuana cultivation site.
If convicted, Mr. Lopez could face up to 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine. Torres-Armenta, Garcia-Castaneda, and Piedra-Murillo face up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine each. The three men from Mexico are also subject to deportation, according to The Bee.
A handful of federally-recognized Native American tribes have attempted to bud their own marijuana operations, but have been stunted by the federal government, including states that have not legalized marijuana. Although tribal sovereignty allows Native Americans to pass their own laws, which can include the legalization of marijuana, states with laws against the use of recreational and medicinal pot argue that tribes who grow pot on their reservations had to first smuggle the plants and seeds through state territory, which is illegal.
To date, Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Washington, D.C., have each legalized the use of marijuana, Business Insider reports.