On Aug. 24, 2017, San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force announced that a series of San Mateo County cannabis raids eradicated 11,400 cannabis plants with a value of approximately $22.8 million, as reported by The Mercury News.
As a part of the California Department of Justice’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, the two-month investigation was a multi-agency effort to eradicate illegal grow operations causing environmental damage.
“This is something that happens statewide on a seasonal basis from June all the way through October where local and state agencies participate in this program when they have these types of rural lands that unfortunately, host illegal marijuana grows,” said task force commander Saul Lopez, as reported by The Daily Journal.
According to District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, “When you divert a stream and are dumping various hoses and other things that are potentially toxic, you’re damaging our nature wildlife, our fishery and that warrants attention from us. If there’s an environmental component, we’ll always take that to court … . And when you’re growing 1,000 times the law allows, we’ll prosecute that too.”
The San Mateo County cannabis raids happened in late July at the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, but the task force didn’t announce the raids until Aug. 24 because the investigation was still open.
The investigation resulted in the arrest of Juan Cuevas Sanchez, Joel Ochoa Sanchez, Juan Farias Galeana and Jose Antonio Mendoza.
Galeana and Mendoza, suspected to be laborers at the illegal grow sites, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor stream diversion and were subsequently released because of previous time served. Galeana and Mendoza were also given 18 months of probation and ordered to fix the environmental damage caused by their actions, as reported by The Mercury News.
According to The Daily Journal, Cuevas Sanchez, suspected to be the ringleader, was charged with two felony counts for cultivating beyond the legal limit, but pleaded not guilty and is out on bail. Ochoa Sanchez, booked on three misdemeanors for cultivating beyond the legal limit, resisting arrest and assaulting a police canine, was released on his own recognizance, but will face his charges in court on Sept. 1.