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Large pot operation busted
2,554 huge plants taken down in East Porterville
Marijuana plants at a large growing operation on East Springville Avenue were so big, a bulldozer had to be brought in to assist in removing the plants.
Tulare County Sheriff’s deputies raided the large operation at 6 a.m. Thursday, arresting eight people in the garden and two more in a house. They then began the task of pulling out the 2,554 plants, most that would produce far more than a pound of processed marijuana.
“They’re the size of orange trees,” said Fifth District Supervisor Mike Ennis at the site. He said it is time for the state to do something to curb the illegal growing.
“The state needs to come down here and look at this, to see what it’s costing for compassionate care.”
Ennis was referring to the 1996 initiative passed by California voters allowing people to possess and grow their own marijuana for medical purposes. He said less than 1% of those growing marijuana are doing so for medical purposes.
Lt. Tom Sigley said there were a few Letters of Recommend, letters issues by doctors giving permission to grow marijuana, found at the site, but the operation far exceeded anything considered compassionate care.
He said considering the size of the plants, the Thursday bust was the largest this year on the Valley floor. Besides the large bulldozer, officers were using two backhoes, a Bobcat, three dump trucks and two trailers. More than 30 personnel were at the site using chainsaws to cut down the plants in 100 degree temperatures.
In all, there were six separate plots spread out over more than 7 acres. Plants were well spaced, covered with netting and all watered by an elaborate drip irrigation system. Sigley said it was a well done operation.
Sgt. Chris Douglass, information officer for the TCSD, put a low estimate of $7.6 million on the haul, but Sigley figured the marijuana was worth far more than that because that figure is based on a pound of marijuana per plant and he said some of those plants could produce more than 3 pounds. The plants ranged in height from 12 to 18 feet.
Sigley also said they had been investigating the garden for a while. He said most of the plants would be ready for harvest in four to eight weeks, although some buds had already been cut off and could be found drying.
Douglass said methamphetamine and heroin for sale were found at the site.
As she walked through the grow site, Douglass said the netting appeared to be the grower’s attempt to comply with the county ordinance that requires plants to be grown indoors. While the grow site was clearly out of compliance, Sigley said it was strictly a narcotics case and not a civil case as the one busted in Ivanhoe earlier in the week.
Ennis said fighting the marijuana growers is costly.
“We have $600,000 set aside and I feel we’re spending a million dollars,” he said, adding the state does not assist the county with the effort like the Forest Service does in the mountains. Sigley said they have identified more than 400 grow sites on the Valley floor this summer and said they saw a couple more from the air during Thursday’s raid. One officer did suffer from dehydration and had to be treated.