County Board of Supervisors Receives Report on Cannabis Enforcement Actions; Pushes for More

Sheriff Ed Prieto told the Board of Supervisors “there are lots of concerns about the illegal grows in Yolo County and we’ve received many complaints and concerns.”  He said in the past few weeks the sheriff’s department has served nine search warrants.

He said, “We’re being very vigilant about those that are illegal.  We’re taking an appropriate course of action.”  He estimated that they have confiscated or destroyed over $14 million worth of allegedly illegal cannabis.

The sheriff made it clear: “We are not… the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department is not going to allow and we’re going to stay extremely vigilant to the illegal grows and make sure that we take the appropriate course of action.  Hopefully if we continue doing this, the illegal growers are going to decide to stop or go to another county.”

Undersheriff Tom Lopez said they “basically waited on the sidelines until policy was in place, we’re chomping at the bit to get started.  Once we felt the comfort zone was there, we started taking enforcement action.”

He confirmed nine search warrants were served and it took considerable manpower to safely eradicate the crops.  Thirteen individuals have been arrested so far in the searches, for a variety of crimes, and most of them were conspiracy, cultivation, violation of court orders, possession for sales.  “The more dangerous parts of it were the felons that were on the scene with ammo and with weapons,” he explained.

He said they are not into the court process yet, but they have many more search warrants in the queue.  He anticipates that, following the processing of the paperwork for these, they will go out
with the next batch of search warrants and serve those.

Current law allows for commercial cultivation of medical cannabis only by permit.  The county is in the process of crafting a permanent commercial cannabis ordinance.

Supervisor Don Saylor asked if they are seeing more illegal marijuana cultivation now than in the past.

The undersheriff responded, “I think what we’re seeing now is the illegal cultivation more out in the open than in the past.  They used to be hidden in people’s corn fields and up in the mountains and along areas that have water sources.  Now we’re seeing cultivations that are next to residential areas and along roadways.”

He said, “I think there is a misnomer that people think that they can grow – and they can’t without the permitted process.”

Sheriff Prieto said, for a while after Proposition 47, they perceived most of these crimes as misdemeanors and a lot of time and effort for not a lot of result.  But now they are motivated to respond to crack down on the illegal cultivation.  “We’re going to continue responding to make sure that illegal growers go to another county,” he said.

Supervisor Matt Rexroad was supportive of the effort.  “Thank you for slamming these illegal grows, this is exactly the right thing to do.  It sends the right message.”  He said, “I think that the media coverage that you’ve gotten has helped send that message loud and clear.”

Supervisor Rexroad also supported the notion of going after the landowners.

“That’s the way that we’re going to shut these down, is by the landowners … having a lien for $50,000 for the sheriff’s time to come in and enforce your illegal grow…  I want that penalty to occur if it’s available for us,” he said.

County Counsel Philip Pogledich noted that a lot of the enforcement action that has occurred is not going to be reinforced through the current fee structure.

Supervisor Rexroad acknowledged it wasn’t available now, but asked if they had the ability to be compensated for the sheriff’s time and expense by the landowners.

“Quite possibly yes,” Mr. Pogledich responded.  “I’m hedging a little bit because it’s not a matter of settled law but there is an argument, and to my mind it’s a good one, that we can charge somebody who’s intentionally violating the law…  for the costs associated with law enforcement.”

“The way we shut them down is to charge them,” Supervisor Rexroad said.  “I want to do that.”

Undersheriff Lopez added, “Once the case is adjudicated, we can look at asset seizure.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting



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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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27 thoughts on “County Board of Supervisors Receives Report on Cannabis Enforcement Actions; Pushes for More”

  1. Alan Miller

    Hopefully if we continue doing this, the illegal growers are going to decide to stop or go to another county.”

    Yeah, that’s worked well over the last 50 years, just look at how there aren’t any pot farms.  What was it called, “The War on Drugs”?

    we’re chomping at the bit to get started.

    Now there’s an attitude I want from my local law enforcement.  Was that right after leaving the nonviolent action engagement workshop?

    “We’re going to continue responding to make sure that illegal growers go to another county,”

    I’m sure Sutter, Lake, Sacramento, Colusa and Solano are thrilled with this attitude.  Kind of like other states putting homeless people on a bus and sending them to California.  In all such cases the response from the receiving party is the same:  “Thank You — Thank You for sending us your problems.  We’ll gladly take care of that for you.”

  2. Don Shor

    These are not small operations. Cannabis farms have high potential to be sources of pollution, illegal pesticide application, and pose security risks. Rural neighbors have good reason to be concerned about them. I think these stories have been pretty one-sided so far.

    1. Howard P

      Meant as an honest question Don…

      These are not small operations. Cannabis farms have high potential to be sources of pollution, illegal pesticide application, and pose security risks.

      Aren’t the first two pretty much true of all farming?

      1. Don Shor

        Cannabis growers tend to use very high phosphorus fertilizers due to a misconception about the relationship of P and flowering. Phosphates are a source of pollution in runoff and erosion situations. They are also more likely to use soluble sources of nitrate. An entire industry has developed marketing to cannabis growers and the materials they are using are very different from what is used in conventional row-crop or orchard production. These growers need to come in, get legal, get registered and start filling out the same paperwork that other farmers do. There’s an effort underway statewide to reduce pollution of runoff and contamination of groundwater. They need to be part of that.

        All pesticide use on cannabis is presently illegal because there is nothing registered for use on the crop. It’s illegal to use a pesticide on a crop for which it isn’t registered. Pesticide use has to be reported. Colorado has moved quickly to register pesticides for their growers (https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/agplants/pesticide-use-cannabis-production-information). California DPR needs to do that, and could probably adopt what Colorado is doing. But at the moment, cannabis pesticide use is pretty much the Wild West and outdoor grow operations have been found to be serious mis-users of chemicals.
        Here’s where California stands on this issue as of now: http://cdpr.ca.gov/docs/cannabis/index.htm

        1. Howard P

          Thank you, Don, for the fair answer…

          These growers need to come in, get legal, get registered and start filling out the same paperwork that other farmers do. There’s an effort underway statewide to reduce pollution of runoff and contamination of groundwater. They need to be part of that.

          100% agreed!

          Colorado has moved quickly to register pesticides for their growers (https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/agplants/pesticide-use-cannabis-production-information). California DPR needs to do that, and could probably adopt what Colorado is doing. 

          That we would do likewise… 99.5% agree…

          Thank you…

  3. David Greenwald

    I don’t have a problem with the county finding ways to encourage and even crack down on illegal grows. After all if they don’t what is the incentive for people to get permits. However I believe that there were much less heavy-handed approach is available here and I believe this information will come out in the next few days hopefully

  4. Tia Will

    I have three problems with the described approach :

    1. Attempting to push the problem off onto other counties is short sited, ineffective, and far from collaborative as Alan pointed out.

    2. Heavy handed tactics do far more harm between police and communities than a more measured approach to achieve a goal ( eradicating illegal growing) if that is indeed the goal rather than macho “law and order” approach as suggested by Paul.

    3. Finally, if we are looking at a valuable crop ( to the medical or recreational user) not just to the producer/grower, what is gained by effectively burning millions of dollars of product ?  Police gain property which has been involved ( or may have been involved as in civil forfeiture all the time). We don’t just destroy confiscated automobiles or houses so why would we take this approach with a crop which would be legal had it been grown under permit ?

    1. Don Shor

      if we are looking at a valuable crop ( to the medical or recreational user) not just to the producer/grower, what is gained by effectively burning millions of dollars of product ? Police gain property which has been involved ( or may have been involved as in civil forfeiture all the time). We don’t just destroy confiscated automobiles or houses so why would we take this approach with a crop which would be legal had it been grown under permit ?

      I don’t think there is any shortage of marijuana available for those who actually need it for medical purposes. I don’t think the sheriff’s office has the facilities to silo and store large volumes of confiscated marijuana to hold and then redistribute.

  5. David Greenwald

    Tia:

    One of the big reasons I became a proponent of legalizing drugs was the heavy-handed law enforcement tactics.  One of the reasons I supported Prop 64 was to end the war on drugs.  So by operating this way, they are going against my intent and I would support further legislation or an intitiative that ended criminality for illegal cultivation.  My view is fine them if they are out of compliance.

    1. Don Shor

      Per the Davis Enterprise:

      several of those arrested were felons in possession of weapons and ammunition.

      I suspect they approach these operations with a consideration that there may be high risk.

      1. Keith O

        I suspect Don that you won’t get very many (if any) replies to your post.
        They may be armed felons but we must remember they’re growing a valuable crop.

      2. David Greenwald

        Don: I saw a hearing today for one such person.  On the other hand, I’m scheduled to interview a guy who had no idea he was in violation of the law and thrown to the ground in front of his wife and kids.

        1. David Greenwald

          That’s not exactly true especially if you are charging someone with a conspiracy to commit a crime.  It’s actually an element of the charge that they have to know that they are breaking the law.  There is also a question about how well the authorities communicated to those out of compliance that they were in fact out of compliance with county ordinances.  This is far more complex.

  6. Alan Miller

    When a farmer uses an illegal pesticide, we don’t raid their farm with law enforcement, guns drawn.  They are fined.  Is their crop destroyed? Not sure.

    Yes, part of pot farm culture pre-legalization includes guns and illegal pesticides, and that remains for some, as does law enforcement tactics.  Gun possession and illegal pesticides has to be enforced, and the raid mentality of county drug enforcement has to be toned down.  Fine the hell out of the illegal grows.  If guns are suspected, raid on the guns, not the pot.  Make the crime the illegal guns.  Fine on illegal pesticides and cleanup costs.

    The mentality on all sides has to change.

    1. Alan Miller

      I can understand being cautious and having armed backup, but is a raid necessary to protect officer safety?  What are the stats on pot growers in Yolo County raising weapons at law enforcement?

       

       

       

      1. David Greenwald

        It seemed like there were kind of two different population groups who caught up in this, one was a criminal element but another seemed more benign.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            They seem benign because they are older people, they don’t have criminal records, they weren’t aware that they were breaking the law, and they are being charged with the nonsensical felony conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor.

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