November 20th, 2010
(WashPost) – What were they smoking?
Federal, state and local officials carrying out a counter-terrorism drill in Northern California Wednesday played out a scenario in which local marijuana growers set off bombs and took over the Shasta Dam, the nation’s second largest, to free an imprisoned comrade.
According to an account in the Redding (Calif.) Record Searchlight, the 12-hour drill was part of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Critical Infrastructure Crisis Response Exercise Program, begun in 2003.
“More than 250 people from more than 20 agencies took part,” said Sheri Harral, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Reclamation, according to the paper.
Harral said the drill took 18 months to plan and cost the bureau alone $500,000. The other agencies covered their own costs.
The paper made only passing reference to the scenario’s designation of pot growers as terrorist villians.
In the otherwise realistic mock-terror scenario, the marijuana growers’ “red cell” set off bus and car bombs as distractions, took over the dam with three hostages, and then “threatened to flood the Sacramento River by rolling open the drum gates atop the dam,” according to the paper.
No matter how worthwhile a drill, said marijuana legalization advocates, envisioning pot growers as a terrorist threat in laid-back Northern California was ridiculous.
“That was so stupid,” said Dale Gieringer, head of the California chapter of NORML, the decades-old National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.