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An operation to rid illegal marijuana grows in Stanislaus County resulted in thousands of plants seized in the region.

An operation to eradicate illegal marijuana grows in Stanislaus County resulted in multiple arrests, thousands of plants seized and several firearms confiscated, according to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.

The operation was a weeks-long joint marijuana eradication operation which took place between Oct. 26 to Nov. 5 and was led by the sheriff’s department’s Community Resource Unit, which is comprised of a supervising sergeant and seven sheriff’s deputies.

The operation targeted 29 confirmed outdoor and indoor illicit marijuana grows throughout the  county.   

“Our efforts were the culmination of a long-standing, months-long investigation into those who choose to disregard state, federal and local statutes regarding the cultivation of marijuana  cannabis,” said sheriff spokesman Sgt. Luke Schwartz. “Our agency partnered with several other agencies to make the operation run smoothly.  All locations  were the subject of search warrants approved by our local judges.”

The CRU was assisted by 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 Co Code  Enforcement, Riverbank & Patterson Public Works, Pacific, Gas & Electric, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Special Investigations, Air Support and SWAT, Fusion Center Crime Analyst/Statistical tracking team, and Waterford, Patterson, Hughson and Riverbank Police Services. 

“We could not have successfully completed this large-scale,  complex,  and well-choreographed operation without the help of  the agencies who participated,” Schwartz said.    

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; 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; 18 places had  their power shut-off by their respective local utility companies; and 17 code enforcement referrals were made.

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

“Our office would like to remind the  public  of  the dangers which exist from illegally growing or cultivating marijuana,” Shwartz said.  “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,” Schwartz said. “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.  

“Each of these 29 locations targeted chose to ignore these  mandates,” Schwartz said.