Authorities in San Bernardino County raided a marijuana grow site in August, seizing more than 5,000 plants and multiple guns, the county sheriff’s department said. Fourteen people were arrested.
Sheriff’s deputies, part of a marijuana enforcement team, served nine search warrants Aug. 20 and 21 on several properties in unincorporated San Bernardino County. The sites included the communities of Landers, Bloomington, Joshua Tree, and Helendale.
Each property included a cannabis garden, and officials said the volume of weed suggested a commercial operation rather than a patient’s grow site. The sheriff’s department said the gardens violated the state’s medical marijuana laws – though those laws are notoriously vague.
Deputies seized 5,557 pot plants, more than 170 pounds of processed weed, a “large quantity” of prescription painkillers, and four firearms. Two of those were sawed-off shotguns, and the serial number had been removed from one.
The pot was found growing in so-called “plywood grows,” unsecured enclosures with plywood fences to make the plants harder to see.
San Bernardino County has outlawed all outdoor cultivation of marijuana in unincorporated areas. That policy is tougher than state law, which allows patients to grow several plants regardless if they’re indoors or out.
Several of the suspects provided deputies with what the sheriff’s department said were fake MMJ registration cards.
Four Los Angeles resident were arrested during the sweep: Angie Colindrez, 19, Manuel Perez, 48, Carlos Gonzales, 41, and Andres Marquez, 39. They were being held on suspicion of drug crimes.
Other people busted in the sting came from across the region and the state. Jose Rascon, 60, of Bloomington; Thonekeo Sounannavong, 55, of Fresno; Alex Aphayboun, 46, of Sacramento; Zavadeth Kavayong, 38, of Fresno; Athith Kavayong, 35, of Fresno; Phouthone Khaithiathong, 52, of Porterville; Lee Callan, 58, of Landers; Aquilino Villasenor, 50, of Mexico; Roberto Zavala, 44, of Bakersfield; and Manuel Madrigal-Castillo of Mexico.
The sheriff’s department didn’t say whether authorities believe there were any connections to Mexican drug cartels or other gangs.