EDSO Deputies Suppress Commercial Indoor Marijuana Cultivation
The indoor commercial cultivation of marijuana in residential neighborhoods of the Tahoe Basin has become an enforcement priority of the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office. Over the last four months Patrol Deputies have applied for and served a dozen warrants, and interrupted a dozen commercial cultivation operations primarily housed in rental homes in residential neighborhoods.
While the Sheriff’s office is very sensitive to those with a medical need who rely on medical marijuana for wellness, it is the size and nature of these commercial growing operations that cause a concern to public safety and must be addressed.
Extensive commercial growing operations in residential neighborhoods cause a great deal of concern.
Frequently the existence of these grows comes to the attention of the Sheriff’s Office thru the complaints of neighbors who are exposed to the invasive odor of marijuana. These grows also use a great deal of electricity, far more than the residential power grid was designed to deliver to a single residential consumer. Within these houses substandard wiring is the norm, as is extensive damage due to moisture and mold. Frequently structural modifications to the house itself are found in order to accommodate more plants and deliver more water to these plants. The extensive use of chemicals in these grows creates an environmental hazard and in many instances excess chemicals are disposed of through the public utility sewage system creating an added public expense and degrading the water supply. In other instances chemical infused soils have been found dumped in back yards where it runs off onto neighboring properties and it leaches into the ground water creating an environmental hazard.
While Proposition 215 allows marijuana for medical users and allows patients to grow for their own needs or those of persons they directly and physically care for; it does not allow the establishment of marijuana production businesses. When EDSO Patrol Deputies become aware of a suspected growing operation in a residential neighborhood, either thru complaints, informants, or direct detection an investigation is launched. Deputies seek to confirm the presence of a grow by personal observations and then they complete an affidavit and apply for a search warrant issued by a Judge of the Superior Court. Upon issuance of a search warrant deputies will inspect to determine the size and scope of cultivation, and determine if the project includes a drug lab to make hashish or other drugs and if evidence exists that shows the operation is commercial and for profit.
Deputies also have the Fire Marshall inspect for safety. In cases where the structure is found to be hazardous do to substandard wiring, water damage, mold, or structural degradation, power is cut off to the house and the building department will red tag the structure. When these growing operations exceed what is reasonable for a patient, persons may be arrested, the drugs seized, and profits of the illegal drug business seized as well.
Over the past four months, Deputy Sheriffs assigned to South Lake Tahoe Patrol have investigated a dozen such commercial grows, have seized thousands of plants, several dozen pounds of processed marijuana, tens of thousands of dollars, and several drug processing laboratories. These grows of one hundred to several hundred plants in size have consumed as much 40% of the floor space of a single family home. In every case the Fire Marshall’s inspection revealed that wiring installed to support the grow was substandard and dangerous. Additionally, moisture was found to have damaged the buildings in many cases to include rot to wooden structural components such as floor joists and wall studs. As nearly all of these have been found in rental homes, the property owners, who are often unaware of the activity inside, are left with repair bills which may include hazardous waste clean-up and toxic mold removal that can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The El Dorado County Sheriff's Office is committed to safe neighborhoods. An ongoing criminal drug enterprise which includes the commercial production and distribution of marijuana is not consistent with a place to live and raise children. EDSO invites the public to provide information of this type of activity either by call our dispatch center at (530) 573-3300 or through our web site, www.edso.org