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SHERIFF: BUST SENDS MESSAGE TO GROWERS

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EUREKA -- Humboldt County Sheriff Dennis Lewis said he hopes Tuesday's
major drug bust will have a "profound impression" on indoor marijuana growers.

Two days ago, local, state and federal drug agents raided 11 indoor
marijuana-growing operations in southern Humboldt and northern Mendocino
counties, a turning point in what has been a two-year investigation called
Operation Emerald Triangle.

Indoor operations have been on the rise the past few years, Lewis said, as
a result of federal crackdowns on outdoor growing.

Information released by the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement
Administration's office in San Francisco estimated that the raids yielded
about more than 14,000 plants, $206,000 in cash, as well as several
automatic weapons. Of the locations searched, five actually were residences
and six were pot-growing facilities disguised to look like houses.

"This organization is responsible for operating multi-stage marijuana
production and distribution facilities in the Northern California area,"
said Joycelyn Barnes, a Justice Department spokeswoman, in a press release
on Tuesday.

The raids began at 6 a.m. following a briefing conducted by the Humboldt
County Drug Task Force. More than 100 agents, including the FBI and the
California National Guard, were involved. A total of 11 search warrants
were served and more came later as agents searched the homes and found
information on other operations, Lewis said.

A Redway couple, Zachary and Bria Stone, were arrested on suspicion of
weapons charges and were later released on bail. Zachary Stone, a convicted
felon, could face a minimum of 10 years if convicted of being a felon in
possession of a firearm.

Lewis said agents searched their home and found that the couple also owns
an old building in Salmon Creek. Agents later found approximately 1,700
marijuana plants at this location. It is believed the couple were part of a
larger operation, the sheriff said.

Lewis said this case will be sent to the Humboldt County District
Attorney's office. The Stone couple could face state and federal charges,
in particular tax evasion, conspiracy, cultivation of marijuana.

Two other residences were searched in Humboldt County, including a house
right behind the Stone residence as well as a home in Benbow. It is not
known what, if anything, was seized in these two houses.

Lewis said no arrest warrants have been issued at this time, but more
people are being investigated.

Capt. Kevin Broin at the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department said he
agrees with Lewis that a strong message needed to be sent. Both counties
have the same problem of being known as "marijuana capitals," and have a
lot of spill-over traffic, Broin said.

Moreover, sophisticated indoor operations have greatly increased the output
of growers. Unlike outdoor operations, which yield one crop per year, Broin
said indoor operations are designed to operate year round.

He said he's convinced Proposition 215, which allows licensed people to
grow a minimal amount of marijuana for medicinal purposes, "had nothing to
do" with the facilities the agents searched.

"These people are commercial growers looking to get rich," he said.


Newshawk: Cannabis News - marijuana, hemp, and cannabis news
Pubdate: Thu, 08 Mar 2001
Source: Times-Standard (CA)
Copyright: 2001 The Times-Standard
Contact: letters@times-standard.com
Address: 930 Sixth St. Eureka, CA 95501
Fax: 707-441-0501
Feedback:
http://www.times-standard.com/AngEuk_feedback.asp?PUID=5106&SPUID=5106
Website: Eureka Times-Standard: Breaking News, Sports, Business, Entertainment & Eureka News
Author: James Tressler, The Times-Standard
 
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