Harvesters talk about big Fresno County pot bust

FRESNO, Calif.

From the busy street of Belmont, this field has the appearance of an innocent farm. But take a closer look and you'll see why it attracted Fresno County sheriff's deputies.

It's 80 acres, with almost 40 of that dedicated to farming pot, with melons and squash acting as camouflage.

"But you can tell they're not concerned with those because of the weeds and how they're maintained," said Lt. Rick Ko of the sheriff's office. "It's not a normal agricultural operation."

Lt. Ko showed us wooden shacks equipped with essentials for living in the middle of a field. To keep the crops safe, the harvesters have binoculars and an alarm system. Other shacks were dedicated to processing the plants.

What comes out of those processing facilities is pound upon pound of dried marijuana with a street value of at least $1,000 per pound, possibly five times that if it's shipped out of state. A huge amount was collected from just one of those wooden shacks.

Deputies detained about 15 people working in the rows of marijuana, but released most of them within a few hours. The harvesters told Action News they just work the field, but they thought it was legal.

"We have the medical card, so if they come take it, might as well take it," said one man who wouldn't give us his name. "We can't say nothing. We can't do anything about it."

Federal law says it's not legal, so deputies tore down as many as 11,000 plants here on a federal search warrant.

Deputies say most pot grows have either been busted or harvested by now, but some greedy growers are trying to stretch out the season.

"It's all about money," said Lt. Ko. "There's a huge amount of money in this and people are involved in this for financial gain and generally will take the risk for this much money."

But in this case, it's an investment headed down into the dumps.

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