Nevada County Sheriff’s Office raids numerous large pot grows |

Nevada County Sheriff’s Office raids numerous large pot grows

Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal said his office recently located multiple cartel-type grow operations on forest service land.

The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office has confiscated nearly 4,000 cannabis plants since Aug. 31, according to Sheriff Royal, who said he’s noticed a rise in the numbers and sizes of grows this year — a trend he attributes to the legalization of the adult use of cannabis in California.

The Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant in the 13000 block of Wolf Road in Grass Valley Tuesday based on several citizen complaints of a large commercial grow and evidence from overhead flights, according to Royal.

Sheriff’s deputies found over 1,400 live cannabis plants — many over 10 feet tall — on the property, along with a butane honey oil manufacturing laboratory, two loaded firearms and several packages of butane honey oil suspected of being possessed for sale, according to a news release.

Royal said his office found a “deplorable scene” on the property, noting that 10 people — who he said were from out of town and ranged in age from 18 to 48 — were living in tents and trailers and weren’t using restrooms, instead “doing their business wherever.” Trash and electrical wires were scattered on the ground, he said.

Charlie Cantrell, a 42-year-old Modesto man, was arrested on charges of illegal cultivation of marijuana and manufacturing a controlled substance. His bail was set at $35,000. The plants were confiscated and buried at an undisclosed location, according to Royal.

Sheriff’s deputies had been to the property on three previous occasions, Royal said, but had been unable to make an arrest due to Cantrell’s compliance with growing regulations.

The Sheriff’s Office also recently confiscated plants from large grow operations at three sites on U.S. Forest Service Land.

On Aug. 31, with the assistance of the Forest Service, the Nevada County Sheriff’s Narcotics Task Force served a search warrant off Omega Road and found 1,224 cannabis plants. The grow operation appeared to be consistent with a cartel-type operation, according to Royal. Nobody was present at the site. Plants were confiscated but no arrests were made.

“Some of these locations are very difficult to get into quietly,” Royal said.

While serving the warrant, the task force located another nearby grow in the 10000 block of Alpha Road. Nobody was present but 727 cannabis plants were confiscated.

On Wednesday, the task force served another search warrant on Forest Service land off of Graniteville Road. Nobody was present but 582 plants were confiscated. This grow was also consistent with a cartel-type operation, Royal said.

“Cartel gardens,” Royal said, tend to be operated by “Mexican nationals that come into the country illegally. There are agreements that they grow the marijuana and a drug trafficking organization then takes it and distributes it.”

Cartel-type grows, he said, are often on Forest Service land near a water source.

“With the legalization issue, I think everybody thinks they can grow marijuana, and they don’t care how much,” Royal said. “In talking to other sheriffs across the state, we’ve seen major increases in the numbers and sizes of gardens.”

He speculates that the vast majority of cannabis that is grown at large, illegal operations is “not intended for California use,” and is instead being shipped out of state.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email or call 530-477-4231.

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