U.S. Forest Service Warns Against Campers Drinking Tecate Beer, Eating Tortillas and Playing Spanish Music

The US Forest Service issued and then retracted a Labor Day warning advising hikers to “beware of campers in national forests drinking Tecate beer, eating tortillas and playing Spanish music” because “they could be armed marijuana growers.” A high-ranking Forest Service official in Colorado also identified people speaking Spanish and eating Spam or Tuna as “warning signs of possible drug trafficking.”

The warnings, which were issued as part of a slide show presentation for law enforcement officials and the general public, came after police arrested two people for allegedly growing 14,500 marijuana plants in a Colorado forest. However, little information about the case has been disclosed, including the names of the defendants. Polly Baca, co-chairwoman of the Colorado Latino Forum has accused the US Forest Service of racial profiling and says the warning is discriminatory and could put Hispanic campers in danger. Julien Ross, Executive Director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, further added:

“All Coloradans, and in particular elected lawmakers, should restrain from blaming entire communities for the acts of a few individuals…because a perpetrator’s immigration status has nothing to do with propensity for criminal action, such policies do not prevent crime and erode community trust. Research shows immigrants to be far less likely to commit crimes than native born citizens and to actually contribute to making neighborhoods safer. Lawmakers concerned about the drug trade would be better served focusing on lessening the demand for drugs in their local district than scapegoating immigrants. “

Hank Kashdan, associate chief of the U.S. Forest Service, apologized on behalf of his colleagues:


“It is inexcusable, and we regret that this insensitivity distracted attention from the real problem of illegal marijuana cultivation on federal land and the threats to human safety and environmental degradation it poses.”