The Merced County Sheriff’s Department seized more than 1,100 marijuana plants, a half-ounce of methamphetamine, five firearms, 10 pounds of trimmed buds, and an undisclosed amount of cash when it conducted five raids Sunday in the Northern California county.
Sgt. Ray Framstad told the Merced Sunstar that while most Merced growers stay within the county’s 12-plant limit, the larger, commercial, illegal grows (such as the five raided) drain natural resources and open the area up to harsher drugs and organized crime.
“We tend to find other drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine,” Framstad said. “We find weapons, illegal firearms. And they’re a hazard not only because of the potential for violent robberies, but the chemicals, utilities, and water they waste are also a big problem… The DEA has estimated it takes about 800 gallons of water per plant grown outdoors during the whole cycle. You get these grows with hundreds of plants, and that’s thousands and thousands of gallons of water that should be used for other purposes by other people.”
Another concern with illegal grows are the poorly wired, potentially dangerous hash oil extraction labs set up. For example, in one of the raids conducted yesterday, deputies discovered an illegally wired extraction lab in a wooden barn, just a few feet away from a home where children live. The high potential for fire in these already flammable, shoddily wired labs should convince even the dumbest of illegal growers to not place them in a wooden barn on a grassy field during a drought just feet away from where children are sleeping, but hey — clearly these guys are not the brightest. Gabriel Cruz, 29, of Mexico was arrested and booked in county jail on suspicion of manufacturing hash oil and possession of a stolen firearm.
“All of it is tied to organized crime,” Framstad told the Sunstar. “These are not people who are using it for medicinal purposes.”
This comes after last week’s raid in the Santa Cruz mountains, suggesting illegal growers in Northern California should expect more of the same coming, but the reality is that there are more black market grows scattered across California than departments are equipped to deal with. As we’ve said time and again, the only way to stop the dangers that come with illegal grows like these is to legalize and regulate with prices low enough to undercut the black market. Until then, the cartels will reap the tax dollars that could go to our state and country and the vicious circle of prohibition will continue.