A Turlock property was one of over 60 outdoor and indoor illegal marijuana grows raided by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office last week as part of “Operation Green Day,” which saw nearly 20 different agencies come together for the department’s largest illicit cannabis eradication effort yet.
The major, week-long operation was spearheaded largely by the Sheriff’s Office Community Resource Unit and took place after months of planning, with the Northern and Southern California Bureau of Cannabis Control teams sending their Cannabis Enforcement Unit to assist. The joint effort also included collaboration with others like Stanislaus County Public Works, whose Bobcats and tractors were needed to tear down the illegal grows, along with local water and power agencies, who helped determine if crops were using stolen utilities, to name a few.
“We truly appreciate the assistance from all allied agencies who came together in order to make this operation a tremendous success,” Sheriff Jeff Dirkse said. “The community can rest assured we are dedicated to strongly regulating and enforcing all black market, cannabis-related laws.”
The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors voted in 2017 to allow for the commercial growing and selling of cannabis within county pockets — as long as participants in the pilot program applied and were approved for a cannabis activities permit. The illegal grows targeted during Operation Green Day were not permitted and many were outed by anonymous tips, said Sgt. Erich Layton, which were then investigated by the Sheriff’s Office so that search warrants could be approved.
The operation took place between May 31 and June 4, and one of the first grows raided was at a Turlock property in the 2900 block of Curtion Avenue. According to the Sheriff’s Office, two Turlock residents were also arrested during the course of the operation: Richard Raul Rivera and Laurie Marie Rodriguez.
Operation Green Day resulted in 74,088 eradicated marijuana plants, 39,883 of which were fully budded marijuana plants. In total, 1,687.3 pounds of fully processed marijuana plants were recovered, 46 firearms were seized and $172,347 in cash was seized. A total of 83 people were either physically arrested, booked or issued citations for various new law violations, while 26 places had their power shut-off by their respective local utility companies. As a result of unsafe living conditions, 13 warrants resulted in Child or Adult Protective Services referrals wherein guardians were arrested for endangering their kids.
At just one grow raided in the 1200 block of Sam Avenue in Modesto on Thursday, 500 marijuana plants were seized from two connected properties and a semiautomatic handgun was seized by the Sheriff’s Office. Stanislaus Animal Services officers were also called out to the location to retrieve a large Husky dog and a Pitbull puppy from the property. At the other locations, Animal Services was also needed for cats, cattle, horses and a bull. The Sheriff’s Office even encountered an out-of-compliance registered sex offender in the Airport District on Tuesday afternoon who was also taken into custody.
According to Sgt. Frank Soria, it cost about $25,000 for one team to complete a day’s worth of raids during the week-long operation, and about five teams went out daily. The total estimated street value of all the eradicated marijuana was nearly $100 million; the Sheriff’s Office keeps a small amount from each grow for evidence purposes, while the rest is disposed of by being burned off site.
Sgt. Layton told reporters that most illegal grows can be connected to criminal activity like cartels, human trafficking and even as targets for armed robberies. Additionally, illegal pesticides and growing practices are often used at the illegal grows, making for an unsafe, unregulated product. The black market continues to pose an issue for legal cannabis businesses as well, he added.
“There are standards and practices in place for the legal growing of marijuana, and in a lot of these cases that’s not really occurring,” Layton said. “There are legal businesses set up where there’s an expectation that patrons go to those legal businesses…those people go through all of that process with permits, inspections which cost money. When business is being taken away from those who are doing it the right way, the legal way, they are then financially suffering and maybe even cause businesses to close down if impacted by the illegal drug trade that is occurring on the streets.”