Merced County Sheriff’s deputies are seeing an increase in illegal marijuana grows. Sheriff Vern Warnke said they’ve destroyed more than 60,000 plants since recreational marijuana was legalized in California. They’ve also seized more than 40 guns.
On Saturday, deputies found more than 3,000 plants, and several firearms while serving search warrants.
“We’re deeply concerned about the firepower being used. We’re seeing a lot more in the influence of cartels. We’ve seen a great increase in the Asian cartels along with the Mexican cartels, so we’re having a problem with that,” Warnke said.
The county allows people to grow six plants indoors. However, outdoor cultivation is illegal.
“The people smoking it aren’t the issue, it’s the people that are selling it and creating havoc with the high-profit margin. I will have everybody I can to go after it,” Warnke said.
Some people are glad deputies are cracking down on growers trying to abuse the law.
“If it’s only legal to grow indoors, and people are growing outdoors, it is an issue. That’s really unfortunate, that will increase our costs of policing this issue,” Merced County resident Kerri Brooke said.
Others believe that if it’s on one’s own property, they shouldn’t be punished.
“The fact that it’s on their own territory and their own space, and it’s legal for them to grow it on the property, I don’t see it as a big concern,” Torrey Rankin said.
As the department staff increases, Warnke said more deputies are often helping the marijuana enforcement team take down the massive grows.
“I will continue to be very aggressive with this, and as long as it happens. I’m going to continue and disrupt it as much as I can,” Warnke said.
Warnke said illegal grows can lead to other crime like robberies and homicides. However, Merced County violent crime numbers have decreased.