Massive $100 Million Illegal Marijuana Grow Busted in Stanislaus County
After completing a week-long, countywide marijuana cultivation bust, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department has arrested or given citations to 83 people, shut more than 60 illegal operations down, and seized product that’s worth around $100 million.
The eradication effort happened from Monday, May 31 to Friday, June 4, spanning “all corners of the county,” said Stanislaus Sgts. Luke Schwartz and Erick Layton. The department’s Community Resource Unit led the investigation into these illegal indoor and outdoor cannabis grow ops, which took months to complete.
According to the sergeants, illegal grow operations are one of the biggest complaints they receive from the community. This bust happened due to a host of tips and other investigations.
Through this campaign, the sheriffs targeted 64 grow locations, which turned up 74,088 illegal marijuana plants and 1,687 pounds of fully processed plants. The officials also took 46 firearms and a whopping $172,347 in cash.
Besides the 83 arrests, bookings, and citations for violations, 26 of these locations had their power shut by the local utility company. Furthermore, 16 code enforcement referrals occurred and 13 warrants had Child or Adult Protective Services referrals due to “unsafe living conditions wherein guardians were arrested for endangering their kids.”
The people arrested were aged 18 to 67, hailing from cities all around the US. Some out-of-county residents were also busted, including Palm Springs, Daly City, Redwood City, Atwater, and Stockton.
The officials claimed that the illegal operations were located in communities spread across various income levels. From urban to rural neighborhoods, these growers were raising plants wherever they could. Even though cultivation was authorized and regulated after voters approved Proposition 64 in November 2016, growers looking to avoid state regulations and taxes operate outside the law.
“We’ve got so many black-market marijuana growers in our county,” explained Layton.
The issue with these operations is they encourage crime and, without oversight, the product isn’t always safe for consumption. These operations can also be targeted by violent, takeover-style home invasions involving armed assailants committing shootings, aggravated assaults, kidnappings, robberies, and burglaries. But the low cost of operating as a black-market grower also makes it easy for these operations to undercut the legal competition.
Environmental issues also arise from these operations. Without regulations, these grows will sometimes use toxic pesticides, unabated fungal molds, and gaseous fumes. They can also encourage human trafficking for cheap labor.
Once evidence and samples were collected, the Sheriff’s Department incinerated the seized marijuana.