Vigilance Against Illegal Marijuana Grows

Written By: Deputy Villeggiante, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office Rural Crimes Task Force
Published: February 7, 2020

Over the last several years, state legislature along with California voters have created and formed legal framework which enables the cannabis industry to be a regulated commercial market. In response to the state law changes, elected officials in Sonoma County have adopted ordinances in order to establish comprehensive programs in order to permit and regulate medical cannabis. The information provided should be used as a guide for the safety and protection of persons and property. Even though marijuana has been legalized and regulated, there are still issues with illegal marijuana grows within Sonoma County that can be dangerous for landowners and the community around them. 

What to look for:

Water Diversion– Many times, illegal marijuana growers will commonly divert water from nearby natural springs, creeks, ponds, water tanks, etc. Check your water supplies regularly to ensure your water sources aren’t being tapped into.

Walking Trails– Illegal growers will use the same trails to walk in and out of their marijuana grows. These trails will be visible and sometimes have markers along the way with things such as colored tape affixed to trees for these individuals to easily access their grows. There may be other items along these trails such as clothing, garbage, pesticides, water pipes, generators, water pumps, miscellaneous camping gear, etc.

Access Points– It’s imperative to regularly check fence lines and property lines. Individuals will cut out small areas of fencing or find the easiest access point to get to the site of these illegal grows. This is usually done to bring in the necessary equipment needed for their crop. 

Preventative Actions:

Trail Cameras– The usage of trail cameras can be extremely beneficial and helps to create a much safer way for property owners to observe individuals illegally entering their property. These cameras are affordable, capable of taking high-quality pictures and can be linked to your personal cell phone for viewing the photos.

Proper Signage– Posting “No Trespassing” signs along the property and any trails or roads that lead to the property should be noticeably visible. These signs should be posted no more than 150 feet apart and in English and Spanish.

Suspicious Vehicles– If you locate suspicious vehicles in or around your property, attempt to get the license plate if possible, a good description of the vehicle, and avoid confronting the subject(s) when possible. Contact the Sheriff’s Office and have Deputies respond to the suspicious vehicle. Subjects involved with illegal marijuana grows are commonly associated with the use or possession of illegal firearms.

Crimes associated:

1602 F&G- Illegal diversion of water without notifying the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

5650(a)(6) F&G- Unlawful pollution of a waterway likely to harm fish or wildlife.

602 PC- Trespassing

11358(c) H&S- Illegal cultivation of marijuana

374.8(b) PC- Knowingly depositing hazardous substance on the land of another

Upon locating an illegal marijuana grow, contact the Sheriff’s Office and we will respond accordingly. It is likely we will have members from our Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit along with patrol deputies respond to the grow location and safely and efficiently remove the illegal marijuana grow from the property. At the Sheriff’s Office, and more specifically The Rural Crimes Task Force, are dedicated to the agriculture community and will provide the best services possible. We strive to work alongside property owners to create the safest environment possible during these situations and find a resolution together.

The Sheriff’s Office wants our agricultural family to feel safe, secure, and protected while operating their businesses. We strive to provide everyone with professional and fair enforcement. No matter how small you feel the issue may be, do not hesitate to contact the Sheriff’s Office, specifically the Rural Crimes Unit. 

Owner Applied Number (OAN). Why farmers need it!

Another useful tool is the application of an Owner Applied Number (OAN). As mentioned in previous articles, OAN’s are unique, individually assigned numbers to help identify your equipment in the event it is stolen. The OAN program is run by the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office who manage a database that is available nationwide to law enforcement. The numbers can be stamped, etched, painted, branded, etc. While an OAN will not prevent theft, it will greatly assist law enforcement in returning your stolen property to you in the unfortunate event it is stolen and recovered. Often times, tools and other common equipment get recovered during an investigation, but ownership is difficult to determine. If an OAN had been applied law enforcement nationwide would know who the property belonged to and where to return it. 

If you are interested in obtaining an OAN please contact the Sheriff’s Office Rural Crimes Task Force and we will assist you in obtaining one. If you already have an OAN but have accumulated more equipment, we will assist you in applying the OAN with our specialized equipment. The same goes for anyone who receives a new OAN. This is a free service provided by the Rural Crimes Task Force. 

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