Merced County Sheriff's Department says marijuana grows becoming huge problem

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The Merced County Sheriff's Department said illegal grows are becoming a huge problem in the area. (KFSN)

A Merced residence illegally growing marijuana goes up in flames. The County Sheriff's Department said illegal grows are becoming a huge problem in the area.

Sgt. Ray Framstad's made his fourth compliance stop on Tuesday to a house where he had to remove about 20 illegal marijuana plants. He said they do these compliance checks 10 to 15 times a day, and said the illegal grows are getting larger.

"We're seeing more people think that it's all mainstream, that it's okay to grow. So a lot of these gardens have doubled in size. A lot of the people will grow 15 to 20 plants trying to push the limit."

The county allows people to grow up to 12 plants with a medical marijuana card. If they are over the limit, the Sheriff's Department will step in.

"We'll come and knock on the door even if they're two or three plants over just to get the education out there that we're only going to allow 12 plants per parcel," said Framstad.

However, some illegal grows can lead to a fire breaking out like one fire that was caused by faulty wiring from power theft. Inside the home, an indoor grow with about 200 plants along with rooms containing scales, packaging, and starter plants.

"This is the third year in a row that this house has been plagued with marijuana grows. The last two years we've removed several hundred plants from outside," said Framstad.

Sheriff Vern Warnke said more people are abusing the 12 plant ordinance set in place.

"The extent of marijuana grows is just, almost unbelievable in this county . I've been flying a lot with our air squadron and the amount of grows is almost uncountable."

Atwater resident Jason Powell said the department removed the 20 extra plants from his yard, and said he simply didn't know the county law.

"It changes from year to year to year, and I guess it's up to you to go down and check from year to year to year. Maybe they should set it to one setting."

In the meantime, investigators are continuing to look into who rents the house that went up in flames. The department said often times, people renting houses to grow use fake names and authorities are unable to locate them. They said, unfortunately, this might be one of those situations.

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