California Congressman Bulldozes Hmong Cannabis Farmers’ Crops

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When U.S. gymnast Suni Lee won gold at the Tokyo Olympics last month, she also won rare headlines for her people — the Hmong. A highland people of the Southeast Asian nation of Laos, the Hmong famously fought in CIA-aided tribal militias against the communist insurgents in the 1960s. When the communists took power in 1975, the Hmong faced persecution, and many came to the United States as refugees. They mostly settled in the Great Lakes states; gold medalist Suni Lee is from Minnesota. A large community landed in Fresno, Calif. Over the past generation, many have been making their way from Fresno up to rugged and remote Siskiyou County, abutting the Oregon border. With this move, the Hmong are putting their ancestral knowledge as a highland agricultural people to new use: They’re growing cannabis. But Hmong cannabis farmers increasingly find themselves stigmatized and criminalized by the political establishment in Siskiyou. In recent weeks, the situation has approached a boiling point. Congressman in a Bulldozer On July 20, social media users were treated to the bizarre spectacle of a congressman at the controls of a bulldozer, destroying unlicensed cannabis plots in Siskiyou. The videos were posted to YouTube by the office of Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA). In a blatant publicity stunt, the videos show LaMalfa behind the wheel of the ‘dozer back in May, joining in with Sheriff’s deputies to demolish an unlicensed greenhouse. But, as Politico noted, advocates for local growers said the timing of the videos was problematic. The videos surfaced in the immediate wake of the death of Soobleej Kaub Hawj, the 35-year-old Hmong man who was shot dead by police on June 28 during the evacuation of local communities due to the devastating Lava Fire. Barely veiled racism was evident in LaMalfa’s patter to the camera. “I love the smell of diesel…

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