Sheriff’s department leads marijuana sweeps in Anza

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Law enforcement vehicles stand ready for deployment during the “El Pequeno” Marijuana Enforcement Sweep Wednesday, Sept. 23, in Anza and Aguanga. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

A multi-agency law enforcement deployment served search warrants on 38 properties suspected of illegal marijuana cultivation in Anza and Aguanga. Hemet Station’s Detective Bureau led the “El Pequeno” Marijuana Enforcement Sweep activities Wednesday, Sept. 23.

Twenty tons of marijuana consisting of 31,878 plants, and 4,165 pounds of processed cannabis were discovered and eradicated.

Seven handguns, six shotguns and 12 rifles were collected for evidence, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said.

Law enforcement discovered $46,221 in currency that was collected for asset forfeiture proceedings, a stolen trailer and a butane hash oil lab, along with 10 jars of concentrated honey oil. Carbofuran, a toxic pesticide banned in the United States, was found at one location.

Additionally, seven people were arrested, the department said.

The following suspects were arrested for marijuana cultivation: 68-year-old Anza resident Edward Lugo who was cited and released; 49-year-old Rowland Heights resident Guansheng Zheng; 42-year-old Anza resident Mai Yang; 56-year-old Anza resident Neng Yang; 82-year-old Anza resident Larry Bosell who was cited and released; 30-year-old Anza resident Huber Avalos and 44-year-old Anza resident Douglas Bailey who was cited and released.

State law has allowed the cultivation and use of cannabis as a medicine since 1996. Recently, Proposition 64 legalized limited recreational use and cultivation. But local ordinances conflict with the more lenient state laws.

Riverside County Ordinance 925 prohibits the cultivation of cannabis in unincorporated Riverside County, with some exceptions. Medical patients may grow 12 plants per prescription on a permitted parcel, with a limit of two prescriptions per property for a total of 24 plants allowed.

Recreational users – as per Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act – may grow six plants per person 21 years of age or older, but only six plants per permitted property, no matter how many people living there are over 21.

Any other activity is illegal in unincorporated Riverside County communities such as Anza and Aguanga.

Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, Hemet Police Department, Riverside Police Department, Murrieta Police Department, Palm Springs Police Department, Bureau of Land Management, California Water Board, Riverside County Animal Control, Cal Fire, American Medical Response, Tactical Emergency Medical Services and Riverside County Code Enforcement coordinated in the sweeps.

“I heard someone shout over a PA, ‘Sheriff’s Department! Open up!’” one witness said. “Then boom! Boom! Crash! As they rammed down a door! It was very exciting and scary at the same time.”

The California Department of Justice Campaign Against Marijuana Planting helicopter circled above many of the locations.

Most of the marijuana plants seized were mature and ready for harvest. The huge shrubs were cut down and loaded into trailers for transport to the landfill, officers said.

The sheriff’s department said it is committed to eradicating illegal marijuana grows in the county and will continue their efforts throughout the year. The sheriff’s department has a zero-tolerance policy for these offenses.

If you suspect drug activity in your area, contact the local sheriff’s station.

The Hemet Sheriff’s Station can be reached at 951-791-3400. Criminal activity can also be reported through the We Tip crime reporting hotline at 909-987-5005 or http://wetip.com.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.