‘Brazen’ illegal weed grow big enough for thousands of plants found on state property


California Department of Fish and Wildlife officers apprehend two men, both of them armed, during raid last month.

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“This brazen attempt to hide in plain sight on CDFW property is a perfect example of the lengths people will go to grow illegal cannabis,” says David Bess, CDFW deputy director and chief of the law enforcement division.

“Thousands of feet of black polyethylene pipe were stretched across the property and was siphoning water from the permanent wetlands in the closed zone.” /
“Thousands of feet of black polyethylene pipe were stretched across the property and was siphoning water from the permanent wetlands in the closed zone.” / Photo by California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Beyond seizing the immature plants, MET officers removed more than 2,560 pounds (1,161 kilograms) of waste, chemicals and infrastructure from the site.

“Thousands of feet of black polyethylene pipe were stretched across the property and was siphoning water from the permanent wetlands in the closed zone,” notes the CDFW.

Also finding dozens of dangerous pesticides and chemicals, there were several dead birds, including a Western Meadowlark, within the grow site. “This type of activity is a huge public safety threat and detrimental to the extensive bird populations that rely on the natural resources of this property,” Bess argues.

Also finding dozens of dangerous pesticides and chemicals, there were several dead birds, including a Western Meadowlark, within the grow site. /
Also finding dozens of dangerous pesticides and chemicals, there were several dead birds, including a Western Meadowlark, within the grow site. / Photo by California Department of Fish and Wildlife

The property is home to dozens of species of nesting waterfowl, migratory birds, rabbits, pheasants, birds of prey, small rodents and native plants, CDFW reports.

The suspects are facing eight felonies and 15 misdemeanors with the Merced County District Attorney’s office in connection with the grow-op, CDFW notes.

This past December, the CDFW announced it had wrapped a months-long effort to remove about 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of trash from illegal cannabis grow-ops blighting pristine land in Los Padres National Forest.

The removed trash included hundreds of feet of plastic irrigation piping, two makeshift stoves, discarded camping equipment and numerous bottles of rodenticides, insecticides and high-concentrate fertilizers.

The property is home to dozens of species of nesting waterfowl, migratory birds, rabbits, pheasants, birds of prey, small rodents and native plants. /
The property is home to dozens of species of nesting waterfowl, migratory birds, rabbits, pheasants, birds of prey, small rodents and native plants. / Photo by California Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office reported last fall that 18 investigations on public or private land in and around the Los Padres National Forest had yielded 74,600 marijuana plants, 1,500 pounds (680 kg) of harvested marijuana and 84 firearms. At least one of the sites were so remote and the terrain so challenging that officers had to use a chopper to access them.

Recreational cannabis is legal in California, with adults allowed to possess up to an ounce (28 grams) of cannabis without chance of a penalty, as well as being permitted to grow as many as six plants for personal use. Weed cultivation is never allowed on public lands.

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