On Feb. 11 and Jan. 30, wildlife officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) served search warrants in Lakehead and Anderson. The warrants were based on suspected environmental violations associated with illegal commercial cannabis cultivation. Support was provided by the U.S. Forest Service, Central Valley Regional Water Board, and Shasta County Environmental Health Division and Code Enforcement.
Shasta County does not allow outdoor commercial cannabis cultivation, however, there are a small number of permitted/licensed indoor cannabis grows in incorporated areas. A records check confirmed neither site was in an area where commercial cultivation is allowed nor were any steps taken to secure a state license.
In Lakehead (Feb. 11), officers located series of sophisticated structures with wooden floors on raised cinder blocks, which contained a total of 4,302 cannabis plants and 24 lbs. of processed cannabis. CDFW scientists documented two illegal diversions, huge amounts of garbage near a waterway and evidence of a registered pesticide being applied to the plants, which is prohibited for use on cannabis and food products. Additionally, improperly stored diesel fuel may have impacted ground water and nearby tributaries.
In Anderson (Jan. 30), officers found 2,947 cannabis plants and 151 lbs. of processed cannabis in similar structures found at the Lakehead location. Officers also discovered several hundred gallons of illegally stored diesel fuel which had been discharging into the soil and had the potential to reach ground water and nearby tributaries. No dead or impaired wildlife were initially discovered but the site is being monitored for latent effects of the petroleum spill.
Both sites appear to be connected to each other.
“Illegal cannabis grows put compliant cannabis operators at a disadvantage and can be extremely harmful to the environment,” said David Bess, Deputy Director and Chief of the CDFW Law Enforcement Division. “Black market cultivation will not be tolerated in California and those engaging in this behavior should take notice.”
A total of four men and three women were detained and a formal complaint is being filed with the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office for illegal cultivation and other multiple violations of the Health and Safety and Fish and Game codes. Other county violations will be handled through their respective administrative processes.
You can learn more about CDFW’s role in commercial cannabis cultivation at www.wildlife.ca.gov/cannabis. CDFW encourages the public to report environmental crimes such as water pollution, water diversions and poaching to the CalTIP hotline by calling (888) 334-2258 or by texting information to “TIP411” (847411).