420 Magazine Background

Cops bust marijuana operation

Thread starter #1
T

The420Guy

Guest
OAKLAND -- Police officers serving a search warrant at a West Oakland
warehouse at 8 a.m. Thursday were greeted by the strains of Rick
James singing "I love Mary Jane" and a pungent smell.

They said they uncovered the largest pot-growing operation any of
them had ever seen -- just seven blocks from the police station.

The Glove Company building at 1121 7th St. had been converted into a
massive marijuana nursery. The basement and second floor contained
more than 1,000 potted plants -- from seedlings to mature plants
heavy with large buds -- as well as bags of soil, empty pots, drying
plants and bags of weed ready for sale.

The first floor appeared to be in the process of being converted into
another growing area.

"Officers have smelled marijuana in the area in the past but weren't
able to pinpoint it," said police Sgt. Demetrio Lozares II. "This is
the largest growing operation I've seen."

Officers Bernard Ortiz and Todd Bergeron developed the information to
obtain the search warrant, Lozares said. Officers arrested one
person, possibly a worker, who was on his way out when they were
entering.

Lozares said police had not found any documents to indicate the
marijuana was being grown for medical use. Growers who are
cultivating the plants for medical use are required to keep
documentation on site.

There was a pot-leaf sticker that read "for medical use only" stuck
to a clock in a room where the plants were being trimmed and
processed. The clock hung above a sign urging workers to fill out
their time cards every Friday, because payday was Saturday.

There were other signs the operation had a full staff. A notepad in a
room that appeared to be an office listed employees' work hours
(first names and nicknames only were used) and how much they were
owed. They appeared to be earning about $20 per hour. An open safe in
the office was filled with Ziploc baggies of dried buds.

Officers sat around a table strewn with bongs, pipes and other
paraphernalia, resting from the long task of cataloging the bust. A
white board on the wall gave instructions for trimming, weighing and
processing the plants. It also told workers to weigh buds before
purchasing them.

A sophisticated system of wiring, timers, lighting, heaters and fans
helped the plants thrive and kept the rooms ventilated. On the third
floor, a large harvest had recently taken place, with rows of empty
pots and bags of used soil filling a room and hallway. One room was
filled with drying branches. Another large room, where the windows
were covered with white plastic, was empty except for rows of growing
lights.

There were also large plastic bins filled with dried weed.

Police determined Pacific Gas & Electric had shut off the power to
the building in August after a $13,000 bill had accumulated, but they
hadn't found out when it was turned back on or whether the current
power use was legal.

Lozares said police have not determined the value of the drugs found
in the bust. A 2001 bust netting 259 pounds of pot had been the
largest in recent memory, but this may be larger.

The state Department of Transportation used The Glove Building as a
"one-stop-shop" for services and information during the Cypress
Structure replacement project. Caltrans moved in in 1992 and vacated
in 1997. The building has had a Southern California owner -- who
could not be reached for comment -- since 1992. It was originally a
glove factory, the home of the Hodkins Glove Co.

Staff Writer Sean Holstege contributed to this report. E-mail Laura
Counts at lcounts@angnewspapers.com .


East Bay Times - Contra Costa and Alameda county news, sports, entertainment, lifestyle and commentary
Oakland Tribune 12/19/03
By Laura Counts, STAFF WRITER