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Pot Bust Puts Kids at Risk

Police raided a massive marijuana grow site in San Jose in July, a haul worth an estimated $16 million.

Marijuana Cultivation RaidOne man was arrested and two others fled after officers from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s department discovered them near an illegal outdoor cannabis farm east of Alum Rock Park.

The raid occurred July 17, and members of the sheriff’s Marijuana Eradication Team descended on the farm in the foothills, planning to destroy the thousands of cannabis plants growing there. Officials said the bust was big, even by California standards.

Sheriff’s deputies uprooted roughly 7,500 plants and pegged their street value at $16 million. Police typically inflate the value of the illegal drugs they seize, so it’s unclear whether that estimate is accurate.

Two suspects fled the scene

“When they entered the marijuana grow, they found three suspects,” said Sgt. James Jensen. “All three suspects ran. We were able to catch one.”

Deputies pursued the two men who fled, but they called off the search when the men entered an area without radio reception. Both men were in their 20s, Jensen said. In addition to the pot, deputies found two semi-automatic handguns at the grow site, Jensen said.

A helicopter was called in after the raid to haul away dead marijuana plants. The city closed Alum Rock Park throughout the day and closed a science summer camp with 33 students. The children were evacuated to another park and sent home, Jensen said.

Jensen noted that the pot garden brought guns close to a public park where children gather. That alone made this farm a target for law enforcement.

“The marijuana growers carry firearms,” Jensen said. “There is danger in their being so close to the park.”

Big by California standards

Marijuana PlantThe San Jose bust was sizeable, even for California, where single drug seizures have brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in marijuana. Police in Fresno County once busted a weed field worth roughly $1 billion.

Just this spring, border agents seized more than 15 tons of cannabis, valued at $19 million. It was the second-largest bust at a U.S. border crossing.

That bust occurred at the Otay Mesa crossing from Mexico to California. The pot was hidden in a shipment labeled “mattresses and cushions,” and an X-ray of the truck’s cargo bay revealed 1,300 plastic packages of cannabis concealed inside.

The California/Mexico border saw an even bigger bust two years ago, when agents discovered more than 17 tons of weed in a disguised shipment. That haul was also valued at tens of millions of dollars.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on marijuanaandthelaw.com and californiamarijuanamarket.com.

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