(NewsNation Now) — A new documentary focuses on Mexican drug cartels starting illegal marijuana operations in Southern California and their effects on Americans across the country.
Jorge Ventura, director of “Cartelville USA,” said the thing that surprised him most about making the documentary was the amount of human smuggling and human trafficking he saw connected to these illegal marijuana operations.
“We’re seeing towns in Southern California like the Antelope Valley and in East Lancaster, which are 300 miles away from the border, have a human smuggling trafficking problem,” said Ventura. “So that was one of the more alarming surprises you’re gonna see in the documentary.”
Ventura said Los Angeles County currently has over 500 illegal marijuana operations and believes they are all connected to criminal factions.
“I would say the scariest part was just seeing the amount of weapons and how brazen these operations are in the wide open in the desert,” said Ventura.
To make “Cartelville USA,” Ventura was given incredible access to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office.
“We had to get a little spy drone. And we would fly that over the drug operations. We would document the drug cartel activity, whether it’s the water theft, the environment problem. But the human smuggling and the weapons … we would go out day and night in these communities and just document what was happening in real time,” said Ventura.
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Despite marijuana being legal in California, illegal growth operations can still bring in large amounts of cash.
“Let’s say when these are getting raided by L.A. County sheriff’s, if the sheriff can’t find any weapons or human smuggling connected to the grow operation, then they’re just going to get hit with a $500 fine,” said Ventura.
He believes there is a misconception in the public about illegal marijuana grow operations. He said while many believe it’s a harmless activity, it has devastating consequences.
“(Some people) just shrug their shoulders and say, ‘Hey, it’s not a big deal. It’s probably just Cheech and Chong growing weed in the middle of the desert. They have no idea that it’s connected to this huge criminal element, but it’s the human trafficking and the violence that these cartels bring with them.”