San Bernardino County deputies seize more than 18,000 marijuana plants

More than 18,000 marijuana plants were seized this week in raids during a countywide operation aimed at tackling illegal cannabis cultivation, officials said.

Deputies served 32 search warrants at various locations during the ninth week of “Operation Hammer Strike” which started earlier this year, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

Raids were conducted in Lucerne Valley, Landers, Adelanto, Hesperia, Helendale, Newberry Springs, Pinon Hills, Phelan, and the city of San Gabriel.

Officials said the location in the Los Angeles County-based city was “related to illegal cultivations occurring in San Bernardino County.”

In total starting Monday, deputies seized 18,573 marijuana plants, 3,556 pounds of processed marijuana, 13 guns, and more than $114,000 in “illicit narcotics proceeds,” the sheriff’s department said.

Investigators from the department’s Marijuana Enforcement Team said they “eradicated” 104 greenhouses, four indoor grows and two THC extraction labs. THC is the main psychoactive component in cannabis.

Deputies also cited or booked 23 people on suspicion of illegal cultivation of cannabis, possession for sales of marijuana, utility theft, manufacturing a controlled substance and felon in possession of a firearm.

Commercial cannabis activity is prohibited in unincorporated areas of the county.

Last week, sheriff’s officials said “Hammer Strike” would be a “multi-year operation” that addresses the illicit growing of both marijuana and hemp.

They provided a tally of the property seized from the operation so far: 186,916 marijuana plants, 38.911 pounds of processed marijuana, 8 grams of concentrated cannabis, 8 grams of methamphetamine, 57 guns and more than 563,000 in narcotics money.

Local residents and elected officials have decried the illegal grows they say have flourished in rural areas and affected their quality of life and the environment.

The operation began in September after the county Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance a month before increasing the fines and penalties for illegal growing of cannabis and also imposing administrative fines on owners of properties where the grows sit.

In June, the board also passed a budget allocating more than $10 million toward community concerns such as illegal cannabis which led the sheriff’s department to increase the number of their marijuana enforcement teams.

Daily Press reporter Martin Estacio may be reached at 760-955-5358 or MEstacio@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DP_mestacio.

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