Law Enforcement Agencies Eradicate Illegal Grows

The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office on Friday, Nov. 5 released the results of a major weeks-long joint marijuana eradication operation which took place between Tuesday, Oct. 26 and Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. Spearheaded largely by the Sheriff’s Office Community Resource Unit (CRU), which is comprised of a supervising sergeant and seven sheriff’s deputies, the operation targeted nearly 30 confirmed outdoor and indoor illicit marijuana grows throughout the county. This was the second such operation which originated back in May over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

“Riverbank Police Services participated in the two-week illegal marijuana eradication grow operation,” stated Riverbank Police Services Chief Ed Ridenour. “We served search warrants on five locations in and just around Riverbank. I was proud of the team. It takes a lot of work behind the scenes to complete thorough investigations into illegal grows to ensure safe eradication operations for the public and our staff. Often these operations feed criminal enterprises, have illegal firearms, deal in illegal narcotics, have unsafe and dangerous electrical and structural modifications, and bring unnecessary violence into our communities.”

Warrants were served at one indoor grow and four outdoor grow operations in Riverbank and 3,171 plants were seized in and around the city as part of the overall countywide total, along with 833 pounds of processed marijuana.

“Great work by the team,” said Ridenour.

The final statistical data of the operation included the following: 13,014 eradicated marijuana plants; 7,233 of which were fully budded marijuana plants; 3,233 plants were hauled off entirely; 10 full grow demolitions were completed by county Public Works; 1,493 plants were young clones; 2,656 pounds of fully processed marijuana plants were recovered. Also, seven firearms were seized; $8,309 in cash was taken; 16 people were either physically arrested, booked or issued citations for various new law violations ranging from 19 to 69 years of age; 18 locations had their power shut off by their respective local utility companies; 17 code enforcement referrals were made; and no warrants resulted in Child or Adult Protective Services referrals for unsafe living conditions.

The total estimated street value of the eradicated marijuana was nearly $20.4 million.

Authorities said all efforts were the culmination of a longstanding, months-long investigation into those who choose to disregard state, federal and local statutes regarding the cultivation of marijuana cannabis. The sheriff’s department partnered with several other agencies to make the operation run smoothly. All locations were the subject of search warrants approved by local judges.

Those assisting with the sweep were Northern California teams from the Bureau of Cannabis Control, specifically the Cannabis Enforcement Unit, as well as Stanislaus County Public Works, Stanislaus Animal Services, Turlock and Modesto Irrigation Districts, Riverbank, Patterson and Stanislaus County Code Enforcement, Riverbank and Patterson Public Works, Pacific Gas and Electric, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, S/O Special Investigations, Air Support and SWAT, Fusion Center Crime Analyst/Statistical tracking team, and Waterford, Patterson, Hughson and Riverbank Police Services.

The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department issued a statement at the conclusion of the coordinated effort.

“We could not have successfully completed this large-scale, complex, and well-choreographed operation without the help of the agencies who participated,” the statement noted. “Our office would like to remind the public of the dangers which exist from illegally growing or cultivating marijuana. Oftentimes, grows are the targets of violent, armed home invasion robberies, shootings, aggravated assaults, kidnappings, and/or burglaries.”

Other dangers include the environmental fallout from toxic pesticides saturating the soil, gaseous fumes infiltrating nearby structures and fungal molds growing unabated in heat or high humidity. Utilities are often stolen from other customers. Furthermore, people are trafficked from outside the United States as a less-expensive option to provide human capital needed to tend to the illegal crop.

“The state and the county have specific guidelines, tracking mechanisms, revenue collection means, and laws which must be followed for a legitimate or regulated business to engage in the commerce of legalized marijuana,” the statement continued. “Each of these 29 locations targeted chose to ignore these mandates.”

Appropriate marijuana samples were taken for evidentiary purposes, added officials, and the rest was incinerated. Cases were referred to the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office for review.

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