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May 20, 2021 - The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) with assistance from Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Deputies served a search warrant related to environmental crimes associated with illegal cannabis cultivation on April 30.

Along with CDFW wildlife officers and environmental scientists, support for the investigation also came from the State Water Resources Control Board, California Highway Patrol, California Department of Food and Agriculture and Santa Barbara County Code Enforcement.

“This egregious activity will not be tolerated at the expense of the environment and those in the regulated cannabis market,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “Illegal operations of this nature fuel other associated criminal behavior and put public safety at risk. I applaud this allied agency effort with our enforcement partners in Santa Barbara County.”

The parcel was located in the 1400-block of Tepusquet Road in Santa Maria, which is considered an environmentally sensitive area and home to native plants, fish and wildlife species. As a result, commercial cannabis cultivation is prohibited in this area by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

“We appreciate the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s partnership in the eradication of this illegal grow,” said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown. “In addition to the unfair competition that these illicit growing and distribution operations have on legitimate, legal cannabis operations, this case also shows how detrimental they are to our sensitive environment.”

Officers eradicated 7,943 plants and destroyed over 300 lbs. of illegal processed cannabis flower. CDFW environmental scientists documented several environmental violations, which included substantially altering a streambed, placing materials deleterious to fish and wildlife where it may pass into the stream, and stockpiling rubbish in and around a nearby tributary.

A formal complaint will be filed with the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office.

The public can report environmental crimes to the CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258 or by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).
Source: CDFW