It’s a phenomena that has the sheriff’s office scrambling to eradicate, as marijuana gardens that were once traditionally grown secretly in the mountains are moving down into urban areas of the county in plain sight.
Urban marijuana gardens are popping up all over Kern County’s valley floor this year. Law enforcement is scrambling to take them down, hitting one or two urban pot gardens per week.
The latest find was Friday morning on Redbank Road, where more than 600 marijuana plants were being grown.
Sheriff’s Office officials say in 2010 they raided three grows, seized 441 plants and arrested two people. Compare that to last month alone in which they raided 13 grows, seized 4,300 plants and arrested 20 people. So why the sudden boom?
“This marijuana is being grown under the premise of medicinal marijuana. It’s legal to grow under current California law,” said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Ray Pruitt.
At Friday’s marijuana garden, growers posted several medicinal marijuana plant prescriptions. “The recommendation called for roughly 400 plants to be grown. We have over 600 plants here at the site,” said Pruitt.
Investigators suspect illegal marijuana grows are linked to drug cartels and other organized traffickers. “Organized groups are recruiting individuals to obtain medicinal marijuana recommendations,” said Pruitt.
The groups then take those recommendations to establish a grow. Sheriff’s investigators say often times the so-called “patients” will not grow or even use the marijuana.
“The individual growing this marijuana knows it’s worth a lot of money and may be inclined to arm themselves,” said Pruitt.
The garden on Redbank had more than $1 million worth of plants, with each plant worth $2,500.
Investigators say if thieves don’t get to them, children may, especially since the Redbanks marijuana grow sits right across the street from homes and blocks from Mira Monte High School and the Fairfax School District.
Investigators believe there are at least 20 to 50 more urban marijuana grows throughout the valley. They say they’re using all of their resources to take them down.