MADERA COUNTY – In a rural section of the county known as Trigo, located in the vicinity of Avenue 11 and Road 32, narcotic agents discovered more than just marijuana plants.
Health officials say that had the agents not stepped in when they did, in time, the growers could have possibly contaminated the ground water, putting neighboring homes at risk, according to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office.
Shortly after sun-up on Thursday, July 17, seven agents with Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team (MADNET), assisted by nine Madera County Sheriff’s deputies, Sheriff John Anderson, and two agents from Madera County Code Enforcement, served a search warrant on a plywood shack situated on more about two acres of land.
Maneuvering through 42 rows of marijuana plants and other vegetation stretching across an area the size of a football field, the agents reported the pungent odor of raw sewage hanging in the air in some parts of the garden.
The growers – who were not on site when agents arrived – were using waste water and grey water to feed not just the marijuana plants, but an entire orchard of table vegetables, says the Sheriff’s Office. In some areas, where the water was not able to permeate into the soil, agents trekked through stagnant pools of contaminated water. Code Enforcement said in cases like this there is always concern that the pools could eventually leach out and contaminate neighboring water.
Agents spent roughly three hours working through what was described as a slippery mess, cutting nearly 2,000 plants growing among the melons, squash and eggplant.
With absolutely no indoor plumbing, the growers had converted a 640-square-foot plywood shack into a home, complete with illegal electrical wiring that fed a multitude of electronic devices, including a refrigerator, storage freezer, air conditioner unit and two television sets hooked up to a satellite dish.
Apart from the health and safety code violations, MADNET says marijuana growers continue to flout Madera County’s marijuana ordinances.
REGULATIONS FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA CULTIVATION AND GROWING:
18.87.040 Medical marijuana cultivation regulations
A. Medical marijuana cultivation on any one parcel of real property is limited to one of the following areas:
1. One room within a single family dwelling that does not exceed one-hundred-twenty square feet.
2. One detached, outdoor structure, enclosed and covered, where the cultivation is concealed from view, and where the cultivation area does not exceed one-hundred-twenty square feet.
B. Cultivation is not permitted within commercial or industrial zone districts.
C. Cultivation may only be conducted by the owner or a tenant with the consent of the owner of the subject property.
D. Cultivation may not occur within two thousand feet of an institutional use, such as, but not limited to, a church, school or other public building.
E. The primary caregiver or qualified patient must reside at the subject property where cultivation occurs.
18.87.050 – Prohibited medical marijuana cultivation declared a public nuisance
The establishment, maintenance, or operation of any prohibited cultivation of medical marijuana, in excess of one-hundred-twenty square foot area as defined in this chapter, within the county, is declared to be a public nuisance and subject to immediate removal and abatement. Such removal shall include all growing marijuana at the site except that contained in the one hundred twenty square foot area specified in Section 18.87.040. Each person or responsible party in violation is subject to misdemeanor prosecution as provided in Chapter 1.12, and all other applicable laws.
18.87.060 Penalties for violation
A. Any person violating any of the provisions of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment in county jail, or a fine of one thousand dollars. Violators shall be subject to any other enforcement remedies available to the county under any applicable state or federal statute or pursuant to any other lawful power the county may possess.
B. If a violation is reoccurring at the same location or is repeated by a party which has previous been cited for a violation involving cultivation, each separate occurrence shall constitute a separate violation and shall be subject to all remedies and subject to a fine amount double than the previous offense.
C. In the event any civil suit or action is brought by the county to enforce the provisions of this chapter, the person responsible for such violation shall be liable to the county for costs of the suit, including, but not limited to, attorney’s fees.
Anyone with information about illicit drug activity anywhere in Madera County is urged to the MADNET 24-hour tip line at 559-675-7776.