San Bernardino County just allocated $10 million to add additional marijuana enforcement teams.
There are now more than a thousand illegal marijuana grows in San Bernardino County alone, the majority in the high desert.
Eradicating them is a time consuming effort.
The NBC4 I-Team followed the county marijuana enforcement team on a recent series of busts.
Busting illegal marijuana grow operations is painstaking work.
Armed with search warrants, bullet proof vests and clippers, the marijuana enforcement team targeted eight different illegal grows on the day the NBC4 I-Team shadowed their operation.
If brought to maturity each plant would be worth about $1,000 and there were about a hundred in one greenhouse NBC4 saw.
It’s big business, with new illicit operations sprouting daily.
On this day’s sweep, the only person NBC4 encountered was a man, sitting in this vehicle when deputies arrived, with more than a ton of water loaded on the trailer, well over the vehicle’s weight restrictions.
“I was just working,” he said in Spanish.
Deputies cited and released him, but tending an illegal grow is just a misdemeanor, with a fine of only $500.
The CHP can’t do anything either, since he wasn’t driving.
“If he’s on private property, the vehicle code doesn’t apply,” said officer Heath Kuhlmann with the California HIghway Patrol.
NBC4 caught up with Officer Kuhlmann after he pulled over a vehicle hauling water near Victorville.
“The majority of people that I have stopped driving these vehicles have either not been licensed at all or do not have the proper license to drive,” said Kuhlmann.
Trucking in water is one way to feeds these illegal grows in the desert.
From the air, NBC4 spotted the drilling of illegal wells, putting the already limited desert water supply in danger.
“We’ve had people say that they had to drill an additional 70 feet on their well just to try to hit water again because the water levels have dropped so far,” said Sgt. Rich Debevec with the San Bernardino County Marijuana Enforcement Team.
Published: August 20, 2021
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