The Kings County Sheriff’s Department and the Kings County Farm Bureau will take part in stepped-up enforcement against marijuana grows on private farmland in the San Joaquin Valley, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The push, anticipating the summer harvest season, targets large grows from Stanislaus County south to Kern County. In 2011, there were 110 grows sites in Fresno County and 60 in Madera County.

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Some of the pot plots are 30-50 acres, said Kings County Sheriff Dave Robinson. Grow sites in Kings County have been smaller — the largest nearing 100 plants on one-acre fields.

Robinson said commercial growers are exploiting a loophole in California’s 1996 medical marijuana law that allows individual patients to grow up to 12 plants on their property. The loophole allows them to grow more plants with a doctor’s permission. Illegal operators have used that exception to grow 100 plants or more at a time.

“It’s being bought and sold over and over again,” Robinson said. “There’s no way that’s going for medicinal uses.”

The sheriff’s department reported more grows last year, frustrating law enforcement officials as they tried to determine if the sites were legal under California law or not.

Then, in October, Kings County supervisors voted to adopt a strict medical marijuana ban, outlawing dispensaries and limiting personal plots to a few plants grown indoors.

Robinson said sheriff’s deputies will be enforcing the ordinance.

“We are coming after you, and we are coming after you hot and heavy if you are abusing medical marijuana laws, because that’s what’s happening,” he said.

Typically, illegal grows take place under thick brush or forest cover in the Sierra Nevada foothills, in national forests or even national parks like Sequoia and Yosemite. But tougher enforcement may have pushed growers into agricultural areas, according to the Department of Justice.

Cultivation and distribution of marijuana are felony offenses under federal law.

“Much of the marijuana cultivated in the Central Valley is being shipped to other states,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner. “We will use our investigative and prosecutorial resources to bring criminal and civil sanctions against those who choose to violate the law.”

Kings County sheriff’s deputies will report local grows to the Justice Department, which could seize the land from the property owner, Robinson said.

“We’re trying to take it on now, versus waiting until midsummer when there is an epidemic,” he said.

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News Hawk – 420 Warrior 420 MAGAZINE
Location: Kings County, CA
Source: The Hanford Sentinel
Author: Seth Nidever
Contact: [email protected]
Copyright: 2012 Lee Newspapers