NEVADA COUNTY — Illegal marijuana cultivation has long been a problem for the foothills’ law-enforcement community, but lately, the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office has been finding a whole new genre of pot growers.
“It’s the season,” was the way Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal explained it, refering to a series of recent efforts against growers trying to hide their illicit operations behind fake medical marijuana permits.
“I guess some of these growers don’t realize we monitor medical marijuana growing sites, and we’ve been finding multiple operations masking their efforts by posting copies of the same permit,” Royal added.
The latest catch was Wednesday when search warrants were served on three seperate sites in the 16000 block of Giant Causeway in the Wolf Mountain area.
Reports show deputies found a combined 335 marijuana plants on the three plots, and used information gathered there to later take down two other smaller gardens.
Nicholas D. Sahagian and Blake O. Wasechek, both 24-years old of 10962 Terrace Oaks Lane in Penn Valley, were arrested on suspicion of cultivating marijuana. Both are free on $10,000 bail.
“This operation clearly was larger than the 75-square feet allowable under medical marijuana guidelines, and obviously had more plants than medically required,” Royal said.
The incident report said about $7,500 in cash was also seized, and added that some of the plants were more than seven-feet tall.
Royal said that among other recent operations against bogus growing sites was that which culminated in the July 22 arrest of 59-year old Carson E. Blanton of North San Juan.
That operation netted 73 plants, 20-pounds of trimmed marijuana, two baggies of hallucinogenic mushrooms and six firearms.
“We also took four safes from that site, which was operating with illegal copies of medical script,” Royal said, adding that nearly $100,000 cash was found inside the safes.
As for the street value of the crops, Nevada County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Frank Koehler said one-pound packages of marijuana sell for about $3,500, while “a good-sized plant, grown outdoors, could yield up to three pounds of pot.”