Pot farms busted east of Fresno

FRESNO, Calif.

While these plants appear to have been grown legally under California's medical marijuana law growing pot is still against Federal law. Lt. Rick Ko of the Fresno County Sheriff's Department says this was a Federal operation.

"We are assisting the Federal Government, DEA and the U.S. Attorney's office serving search warrants and marijuana, possession, sales is illegal federally, so it has nothing to do with California State Law."

In this raid, part of a program called Operation Mercury, 18 local law enforcement officers and deputies worked overtime as farm laborers. Chopping down and pulling out pot plants, that were often spread between rows of vegetable crops.

Attorney Brenda Lindner who has represented medical marijuana providers has issues with these kinds of operations.

Personally I don't believe it's a good use of our resources Federally or locally, locally it offends me because the state law is what they are supposed to be abiding by and enforcing."

But Ko says the goal here is not just getting the pot, it's reducing the crime these grows can attract.

"As harvest season comes upon us you have a lot of people protecting their plants with armed guards and shooting at people who are trying to steal the bud and the rest of the processed material. Home invasion robberies, a number of shootings and murders associated with this in the Central Valley," Ko said.

About 15 thousand plants were yanked out in this operation. Ko estimates each produces about five pounds of marijuana. He figures about $5 million worth of marijuana was taken out in one day.

But while it may take it off the street, Linder says operations like this don't really make a dent.

"It doesn't stop people from getting marijuana it just ups the price of the illegal street dealer because they are more in demand and the product's always going to be there. It's coming in every day. They are never going to stop it. The last 40 years have proven that."

No arrests were made in these raids, but it's possible the property the pot was grown on could be seized by the Federal Government.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.