MENDOCINO, Calif. (CBS4) - The sheriff of Mendocino, Calif. is warning Colorado about the dangers of legalizing marijuana.
Sheriff Tom Allman says voters in Colorado will regret the decision to legalize marijuana because crime will also increase. Allman says he should know, because for the last 30 years, Mendocino County has been regarded as the marijuana capitol of the U.S.
Scenic Mendocino County is nestled in an area called the Emerald Triangle, three Northern California counties which are considered a safe haven for marijuana growers. But Allman says marijuana has ruined the area's charm. He says marijuana has led to a spike in violent crime and growers aren't the only victims.
"Thugs put on masks, they come to your house, they kick in your door. They point guns at you and say, 'Give me your marijuana, give me your money,' " Allman said.
Mendocino County authorities have arrested suspects from 14 foreign countries. Allman says home values soared where drugs could be grown and dropped in surrounding areas.
"Without taking any quantum leaps we've said, 'If you grow marijuana, you're going to have large amounts of money, greed and violence,' " he said.
Marijuana grower Tim Blake says the majority of growers in Mendocino were self-described hippies who have grown pot since the 1960s. Blake let CBS4 onto his farm, but he requested its location stay secret. When he's ready to harvest his farm looks more like the Wild West. Blake has armed guards and watch dogs to protect himself from an annual rush of drug runners looking to steal his crop.
"The response time for the sheriff is 45 minutes to an hour," Blake said.
Blake says protecting himself is a necessity.
"It's not going to take them that long to injure your wife, injure your kids, kill your stuff and be gone," he said.
The culture of crime in Mendocino County overwhelmed law enforcement agencies who claim they are strapped for resources. Sheriff Allman says the same thing could happen in Colorado. He believes voters will regret legalized marijuana's impact on the state.
"Mark my words," Allman said. "Three years from now find out what they think of it. They'll say, 'Wait a minute?' "
for more features.