The Yolo County Sheriff’s Office has announced a series of raids against allegedly illegal marijuana growers in the last month. In the most recently reported raids, they turned their attention away from the Capay Valley and toward Dunnigan and Zamora as they destroyed about three-quarters of a million dollars worth of the crop.
According to published accounts, Sgt. Matt Davis of the sheriff’s department reported late Friday that the first of three search warrants was served at a property on the 1000 block of County Road 88 in Dunnigan, which resulted in an arrest and the confiscation of marijuana in addition to ammunition in the possession of a convicted felon.
Deputies reportedly removed 91 growing marijuana plants, five pounds of processed marijuana and property related to the sale of marijuana. The value of the marijuana is estimated at $273,000, Sgt. Davis reported.
The sheriff’s department reported that this week marked the second series of such raids.
At the end of September, deputies raided three illegal grows and arrested three people, seizing $8 million in plants near Capay. Those raids occurred several days after two other sites near Guinda and Rumsey netted about $6 million in illegal cannabis plants.
On September 27, deputies raided a grow near Dunnigan, where they found and destroyed another 356 growing marijuana plants with a total estimated value of $800,000. The next day, a search in Dunnigan yielded 615 plants valued at $1.8 million, two handguns and the arrest of two people.
Sgt. Davis has told the media that cultivation of cannabis is permissible in Yolo County under certain circumstances. But it requires a permit. That means, from the sheriff’s perspective, those
illegal cultivation sites will be raided and the crops will be destroyed if discovered.
There is no question that the county is going to have to figure out a way to deal with illegal grows in order to encourage growers to go through the full county permitting process.
However, one of the purposes of voting for Proposition 64, which 60 percent of Yolo County residents did in 2016, was because many of us believe that the war on drugs is costly and wrongheaded. It would be highly ironic if the legalization of marijuana brought forward more in the way of these heavy-handed law enforcement raids.
These cases have not come to court yet and so we do not have the details of these raids other than the cosmetic descriptions provided by the sheriff’s department in press releases and statements from their public information officer (PIO).
Journalists like Radley Balko have been warning about the militarization of police, particularly in response to raids to execute search warrants in otherwise non-violent drug cases. Mr. Balko’s research found that 62 percent of SWAT raids were to conduct searches for drugs.
Already we have seen the results of what these raids look like.
The September 2016 raid on Ted Hicks’ and Ryan Mears’ place near Winters by TRIDENT (a drug task force consisting of narcotics investigators from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies) shows what these heavy-handed approaches bring. By all accounts, the men had attempted to be completely legitimate, getting proper permitting from the state and the county.
Investigators believe that it was a fraudulent collective, and the case is still moving through the Yolo County system.
In that case, the two men had decided to start a legal medical cannabis business and, according to an article back in January in the LA Times, “were considered by county officials to be ‘shining stars’ in the cannabis licensing arena.”
As Supervisor Don Saylor describes, “The children are traumatized and the grown-ups are still shaking from the experience.”
Mr. Mears told the Times, “When I opened the security door, there were 15 cops with assault rifles drawn, pointed, with their fingers on the trigger, in vests, ski masks. They grabbed me and pulled me out front, put me in handcuffs. There were 20 to 30 officers. My son walked downstairs and my wife had to grab him. They had guns pulled on them. It was real painful.”
“Easily, it was the worst day of my life,” said Mr. Hicks. “Every gun you can imagine was pointed at me. I was like, ‘Why is this happening?’ To add icing to the cake, it was my son’s fourth birthday.”
The court proceedings against the two men, as indicated above, are still working their way through the Yolo County court system.
That case was prior to Prop. 64 and the collective was operating under more stringent medical marijuana regulations than the new commercial ones that the county is setting up.
Again, we understand that the county wishes to gain compliance with its cannabis permitting process. However, at the same time, part of the thrust behind the support of Prop. 64 was to end the war on drugs through legalization. The idea that Prop. 64 would lead to a new wave of raids against marijuana cultivation seems anathema to that principle.
It seems for right now that Prop. 64 is becoming the impetus to engage in a new wave of very heavy-handed raids – the details of which are only now starting to come to light and will continue to do so as these cases come before the Yolo County courts.
—David M. Greenwald reporting