Kern County Authorities raid new kind of pot operation


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Jun 21, 2007
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The vibrant green of 2,000 marijuana plants, and the plywood, black plastic sheeting and barbed wire of the walls that surrounded the football field-sized compound where they were growing, stood in stark contrast to the dead yellow of the rolling grassland north of Bakersfield.

Kern County Sheriff's Department officials said the growing operation -- which sheriff's deputies and officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided Wednesday -- is part of a new wave of marijuana cultivation that relies on medical marijuana laws to justify raising large numbers of plants.

The eight suspects who were tending the field weren't exactly hiding their operation, officials said.

Their grow site was just west of Highway 65 north of Sherwood Avenue, tucked into a shallow valley between two low hills near a working orange orchard and in clear view of a complex of buildings to the west. The large plastic tanks and white water lines used to irrigate the field could be seen from the orchard.

"It doesn't appear that they went to great lengths to conceal their operation," said Sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt.

Sheriff's Sgt. Mike Bonsness said that's because the suspects were apparently counting on California's medical marijuana laws to shield them from arrest and prosecution.

"Some suspects did have medical marijuana cards," Pruitt said.

But, he said, the growers had more plants than they were legally allowed to cultivate.

New Growth

Bonsness said the field is part of a new wave of criminal marijuana growing operations bursting onto the scene in rural communities and agricultural land.

Marijuana groups are recruiting people who don't smoke marijuana to get medical marijuana cards that would allow them to grow pot for personal use, and then hiring them to tend large marijuana gardens like the one raided on Wednesday, he said.

It's not legal for either the people doing the growing or the people who hired them, Bonsness said.

And the high visibility of this new kind of growing operation presents a serious safety problem, he said.

"You're going to have robberies. You're going to have people stealing this marijuana," Bonsness said.

Home Turf

As the day heated up Wednesday, the eight growers huddled under a makeshift shade structure, wearing cowboy hats and the sturdy clothing common among field workers, while law enforcement officers in sweaty camouflage ripped marijuana plants reportedly worth $2 million out of the heavy clay soil.

The plants were high-quality marijuana hybrids, Bonsness said, that grow low to the ground, produce large volumes of marijuana buds and mature in around 90 days -- fast enough to cycle through a couple of plantings in a growing season.

A good portion of the plants were ready to harvest, he said.

"Some of them were only 30 days old, some were 60 days and some were 70 days -- they were almost ready," Bonsness said.

The suspects had been living on the site for at least part of the time, Pruitt said. They had barbecue grills, a small trailer RV and several other makeshift shelters on the property.

Pruitt said it appears the property had been rented or leased from the owner.

"It's obvious that people were spending a great deal of time out here caring for these plants," he said.

Bonsness said the only weapons the suspects had were two pellet guns and Pruitt said the site was not booby-trapped, as other grow sites often are.

Pruitt said the suspects were arrested on suspicion of violating state laws that ban the cultivation of marijuana and the possession of marijuana for sale.

But, he said, federal charges will be explored and could be filed in this case.

"Under federal law they have no grounds to grow this," Pruitt said.



I have to almost agree with the authorities on this one, its obvious they were just a bunch of medical patients using their right to a few plants all getting together and attempting to go a step above.

It also looks as though they favored Autoflowering strains too. Granted a 90 day harvest is more than possible but usually indoors or in certain climates.

If your one of those who are granted the newset freedom within this country for those who suffer from certain illness, dont misuse it! Stay home set up your system and get your medicine.

Its absolutely ludicrous that a group of people would abuse this ability.
After all every MJ fan is fully aware that States are legalizing, not our Federal Government. The Feds can still prosecute you one in the same but they will leave you alone if your grow ops are legal on the states level.

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