Last fall Fresno has one of the largest pot busts in the county’s history. Narcotics agents confiscated thousands of marijuana plants, many ten feet tall. Immigrant farming families tended the pot farm. Among the people arrest were Iowland Laotians. Lowand Laotians is a refugee population from Southeast Asia that made its way to the Central Valley over the last three decades. This group of people has been known to participate in growing medical marijuana. This group is known to grow marijuana in backyards and farmlands while Mexican drug traffickers dominate grows in the mountains.

The U.S Attorney’s office has an interesting approach to this issue with the Laotians. They plan on producing a brochure in Lao and to televise a program on a local Laotian channel. This approach seems very unique and could have a real impact on the Laotian population. Medical marijuana is becoming extremely popular in California although federal law still prohibits marijuana. The 1996 ballot allows patients with a doctor’s recommendation of their caregivers to grow pot for medical use.

The Laotian's suffer from high unemployment and poverty and are turning to pot to make a decent living. Laotians started coming to Central Valley in the wake of the Vietnam War and were fleeing persecution. Many Laotians lack an education and have limited English skills. Purely farming vegetables does not bring in enough money for them to live a decent life. This issue is not only about drugs but also about the immigration problems our country is currently facing. Like many other immigrants the Laotian’s are good people simply trying to make a living. They fled their lives in other countries to improve their lifestyle and make a better life. Few growers are charged and convicted because there are too many growers and not enough resources to prosecute them.

In order to prosecute someone growing marijuana, they need to be caught selling the drug out of state or for profit. All of the people arrested during this raid were released and nobody was prosecuted. The U.S. Attorney’s Office declines to say why no one was prosecuted.

Many citizens are saying marijuana crimes should not be high priority for officials. Some marijuana crimes are legal in the state of California but not federally.  This leaves a lot of uncertainty in the minds of the people who use or grow the drug.