Commentary: Large Marijuana Raids Represent an Alarming New Development

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

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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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  1. Alan Miller

    It would be highly ironic if the legalization of marijuana brought forward more in the way of these heavy-handed law enforcement raids.

    Yes it would, and this has to stop.  How about, um, I dunno, a FINE for not getting a permit?  Do we send in YONUT when someone has a still?

  2. Paul Fullerton

    The proof they wanted to keep there Dog and pony show going … you know the assault rifles .. military gear… kicking down a door .. get those alpha male juices flowing… ruin a couple lives  or two..scare the shit out and of the children and the adults with the iron hand of a military assault .. then hide behind a mask.. handcuff the scared victims and then strut around like a rooster like you own the place.. I know I have been there… total polar opposite of how I treated victims as a public servant.. oh the proof….

    well they had drone photos of every illegal crop … they knew they were there …. they allowed these grows to go on for months and months … everyone knows where they are .. they are not hidden… why didn’t they post letters back in June saying illegal grow … before money was spent … before the plants were actually worth something … wait I just said it… because if the growers pulled up shop when they were seedlings … they would not get to militarize themselves … they would not get there alpha male rush … they would not get to hide behind a mask and Instill fear in someone that never goes away ..they get off on that … remember I was a firefighter … I’ve heard cops talk around the coffee machine .. we get off on a save as a firefighter .. they get off on fear.. .. and how would it look on the news with cops in full military gear .. 40 deep… and they are holding 6 inch plants 🌱 babies.. well they would look dumb being dressed like that and the plants are worth 29 bucks s piece and not 5,000 a piece … so if they used 150,000 dollars in tax money and said they busted baby plants worth the same amount .. not as cool as saying 6 million worth of plants  right … it appears the plants are only illegal  at the end of the grow …. that does not sound right.. it’s like baiting …would you let a wharehouse going up illegally … continue Constiction for months then bust it right before you set the roof … no you stop construction at immediately !  But now the difference is the building dept does not swing there alpha male ding a lings around … militarize … building inspectors would look pretty dumb in riot gear for an  permit violation …they simply stop the project … but the public is used to Rambo and weed … do they go with what they know … I would put down a dollar to a doughnut that if the ag commission or sheriff called lil shop of growers and said here is a list of illegal grows and it’s june … let’s let them know … i would go with them

    if they were scared of the growers protecting baby plants .. because this is June I may  I would go myself and talk to the Growers or have a sit down at my store like when they used me to get the growers on board for permits as stopped it before it started… because it could have… but then there would be no big bad wolf to blame and no headlines…seems like the powers that be let it continue so they could have  a grand finale Dog and pony show… so all these resources that could have been used for maybe a meth lab … gang member bust… you know criminals … they wait months to waste resources on something they could have stopped when it was meaningless….. but that to easy…. the war on drugs was rebooted… but it not a drug it’s an herb and a medecine .. duh.. and why destroy medecine .. County could have made money selling it for oil or donate it to the veterans to be processed … see old thinking ..wait and watch .. kick down and destroy … new thinking identify problem early ..sit down and solve … I like new thinking

    1. David Greenwald

      Thanks Paul – is it true that the DA sent a highly misleading letter to these folks in August that suggested a meeting but didn’t warn of impending prosecution / raids?

      1. David Greenwald

        “so all these resources that could have been used for maybe a meth lab … gang member bust… you know criminals …”

        As opposed to committed a regulatory infraction.

        1. Jim Hoch

          I’m sure which it is.California produces much more MJ than is consumed here or in other states where it might be legal. It’s highly likely that much of the unpermitted crop is sold to states where it’s use and possession may be illegal.

          In that case?

        2. Keith O

          What does Eminem have to do with local marijuana raids?

          For some reason liberals are quoting and treating Eminem like he’s some type of literary genius today.  😉

          [moderator] Could you possibly get a little more off topic, please? You’re really not trying today.

  3. Sharla C.

    I think there is a false equivalency here.  The recent arrests are not TRIDENT raids.  These are different.  Large non-permitted grows on properties with substandard housing by people from out of county or even out of state.  I suggest you research a bit more.  They can smoke all they want.  They can grow for personal use all they want.  They can’t open a business to produce a product on a large scale that people are going to consume without permits.

    1. David Greenwald

      I disagree.  This was an intentionally heavy-handed approach.  They could have sent a compliance letter in May.  They could have sent a compliance letter now.  Instead they waited until the plants matured, they did a full raid, and felony arrests and they didn’t need to handle it this way.  Much more coming out.

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