Dude, where's my bomb?
Counter-terrorism exercise features pot growers setting off bombs, seizing dam
Marijuana activists are criticizing -- and at least partly laughing off -- a counter-terrorism exercise carried out Wednesday in California that featured marijuana growers setting off bombs and seizing a dam.
Organized by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, the exercise involved 20 government agencies and some 250 personnel, according to a report from the Redding Record-Searchlight. In the scenario, marijuana growers blew up a bus and car and seized control of northern California's Shasta Dam in a bid to free an imprisoned colleague.
The Shasta Dam scenario began with the two mock bomb blasts followed by the “Red Cell” terrorist group taking over the dam in an effort to free one of their fellow marijuana growers from prison. Holding three people hostage, they threatened to flood the Sacramento River by rolling open the drum gates atop the dam. Those gates hold back the nearly full lake.
Jeff Stein at the Washington Post points out that "in a confidential catalog of terrorist threats, uncovered by Congressional Quarterly in 2005, the Department of Homeland Security did not include the region's marijuana growers." And marijuana advocates say there has never been a recorded case of marijuana-growing terrorists attacking public works.
"No, never," California NORML head Dale Gieringer told the Drug War Chronicle.
"That was so stupid," Geringer said of the exercise. "I don't know what inspired it. I can see the need to do better pat downs for air travelers to make sure they're not holding joints in their underpants, but this? It sounds like something some yahoo red county sheriff would dream up."
"This is a classic example of law enforcement's utterly inaccurate stereotype of who is involved with marijuana," a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project told the Chronicle. "For decades, they have [vilified] users and people involved in the industry to such an extent that they now equate them with terrorists."