On Tuesday, June 17, detectives from the Tulare County Sheriff Department’s STEP unit conducted a raid on two grow sites located several miles up Dry Creek on private ranch land adjacent to BLM land. Law enforcement officers eradicated a total of 20,369 plants, but made no arrests.
According to a former supervisor of the STEP unit, large scale operations like these continue to attract syndicates of criminals who use the proceeds from the sale of marijuana to manufacture and transport other drugs, mostly methamphetamine.
When 20,000 pot plants are processed and sold on the streets they can generate millions of dollars. Places where drugs are being processed, often in residential neighborhoods, become targets for criminals who want to short circuit the process by ripping off their fellow drug dealers.
Last week, an 18-year-old male brandishing a gun broke into a Visalia residence where high-grade marijuana was being processed as hash oil. The occupant of the house was pistol-whipped and forced to surrender money and drugs.
The suspect was later arrested and charged with several counts related to home invasion.
At their June 3 meeting, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to ban all medical marijuana cultivation by cooperatives or individuals. If the ordinance becomes law, it will supersede current policy that allows cooperatives to grow 99 plants and individuals to grow up to 24 plants in an enclosed structure out of public view.
In some cities like nearby Woodlake, it is legal for a legitimate medical marijuana card holder to cultivate up to 99 plants as long as they are grown indoors in a permitted structure. Planning staff is currently preparing a draft of the county’s new pot ordinance for a public hearing and review by the Tulare County Planning Commission in July.