Sheriff’s deputies in Fresno County discovered two plastic hothouses containing about 400 marijuana plants Feb. 13.
Deputies first discovered several hundred marijuana plants growing in an outdoor hothouse at a home on the 45000 block of Panorama Lane in Squaw Valley, in unincorporated Fresno County.
While searching the site, detectives found four medical cannabis recommendations that pointed them to a home on the 1000 block of North Sierra Vista Avenue in Fresno. There they found another 100 plants in a second hothouse in the back yard.
Three people were arrested: Intong Sivixay, 53, Pathinh Sivixay, 67, and Monh Phonasasivixay, 65. Each was charged with marijuana cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale.
Fresno County has become one of the hardest places to grow pot in California. Earlier this year, county supervisors voted to ban all cultivation, indoors and outdoors, in any unincorporated parts of the county. It’s one of the strictest anti-pot ordinances in the state.
It’s not clear whether it will stand in court. Patient advocates are appealing a ruling that upheld a similar policy in the City of Live Oak. If the state Supreme Court sides with Live Oak, it could decimate California’s 1996 MMJ law.
That law, passed by voter referendum, specifically allows residents to grow weed at home. But the Third Circuit Court of Appeal, which represents Northern California, ruled last year that the law gave Californians no right to cultivate, meaning towns, cities and counties may ban grows.
The county ordinance comes with huge fines: $1,000 per plant plus $100 per plant for each day the plants remain.
Fresno County is also notorious for law enforcement crackdowns like the one Feb. 13. Dispensaries are now effectively shut out of Fresno County, including its towns and cities.
That means patients have no legal way to obtain their medication other than driving long distances, often hundreds of miles. Some of these people are disabled, and many can’t afford elaborate road trips across the state for medicine.
Despite that, the area has a flourishing marijuana market. Police have reported several incidents involving supposed honey oil explosions this winter, and some growers have apparently continued uninterrupted despite the new ordinance.