Growing The Green Indoors


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Ten million dollars, $4 million, $2 million.

Growing marijuana is a business in which having a green thumb can mean a lot of green down the line.

Marijuana growers are increasingly moving their operations indoors in an effort to extend the growing season and make more money, authorities say.

Although growing marijuana indoors used to present less of a risk compared with cultivating the illegal plant outside, that hasn't been the case locally in the past few weeks.

The indoor grow houses have seemed to magically appear all over the western half of the Inland Valley.

On Saturday, 155 pounds of marijuana was found at a house in the 1600 block of El Camino in Pomona. Police are looking for a suspect.

This followed search warrants served Wednesday at two houses in upper-middle-class neighborhoods in Diamond Bar and Chino Hills.

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies found about $10 million worth of high-grade marijuana plants inside a house in the 500 block of Crooked Arrow Drive in Diamond Bar. Tommy Wong, 27, was being held at the sheriff's Walnut station on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana.

San Bernardino County deputies found plants and growing materials worth about $2 million earlier that day at a house in the 15400 block of Country Club Drive in Chino Hills, said Art Marinello, commander of the sheriff's drug task force.

William Hardaway, 46, of Huntington Beach, and Pedro Bengochea, 50, of Chino Hills, were arrested in connection with the operations at the house. They were booked into West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga. Hardaway was booked on suspicion of sales of marijuana and Bengochea on suspicion of cultivation and possession for sale.

On March 21, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies served a search warrant at a 3,000- square-foot house in the 1500 block of Eldertree Drive in Diamond Bar. No one was living there, but it had been converted to a marijuana grow house. About 2,000 marijuana plants were confiscated. Kiet Chung, 40, was found inside the house and was booked on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana, officials said.

On March 14, authorities were alerted to a house in the 6000 block of Park Crest Drive in Chino Hills for a fire. The blaze erupted in an electrical panel outside the house.

San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies found 1,300 marijuana plants inside the house and estimated they had a value of more than $4 million. The plants all stood 18 to 20 inches tall and were fully grown, sheriff's spokeswoman Jodi Miller said. There was no evidence of anybody living at the house.

In all of the cases of indoor farms, the marijuana was grown using hydroponics techniques that use indoor lights and nutrient-filled liquids instead of outdoor sun and soil.

Recent publicity may have made the grow houses easier to spot, and that's fine with Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. Jim Whitten.

"That's why we're catching them," he said about the public's new knowledge of what characteristics make up the grow houses.

Whitten said during the past six months he has noticed an increase in discoveries of these indoor farms.

During that time period, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies have also discovered indoor operations in the Santa Clarita and Antelope Valley areas.

Indoor growing is nothing new, but it has evolved, Whitten said. In the past, indoor growers typically limited themselves to a closet or one or two rooms. Authorities didn't often come across whole houses dedicated to the process.

The marijuana-growing trend was different five to 10 years ago as well, Whitten said. Back then, growers would rent out industrial business spaces of about 1,000 feet to produce marijuana. That became risky due to landlords and security guards, Whitten said.

Whitten and Marinello said they have no evidence that the recent grow operations found in the Inland Valley are connected.

"As far as we know, there is no connection between our (busts) and any others," Marinello said.

In January, the Drug Enforcement Administration was called in under similar circumstances in San Joaquin County in Northern California where several indoor operations were discovered.

Marinello said he does not foresee that happening soon. But it would be up to local prosecutors to decide if they want to bring in federal authorities, he said.

Whitten said he doesn't doubt growers will begin to alter their pattern as the public becomes more aware of the signs of indoor marijuana farms.

Indoor marijuana farms:

Signs to watch for if you suspect a house in your neighborhood might be an indoor marijuana farm, according to Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. Jim Whitten.

- Windows are always shut.
- Unkempt yards.
- Lack of activity inside and outside.
- Mail or newspapers pile up outside.
- New owners immediately begin heavy construction inside.
- Owners move in several items, but there is a noticeable absence of clothing or furniture.
- A three- or four-bedroom house has only one or two people seen there during the week.
- The presence of a strong smell similar to skunk odor.

Newshawk: CoZmO -
Source: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (California)
Author: Jannise Johnson
Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Newspaper Group
Website: - Marijuana farms moving indoors


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skunk odor. Not all weed smells like skunk lol
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