The recreational use of marijuana became legal in California when voters in the Golden State passed Proposition 64 in 2016, but cultivation and distribution of the drug is tightly controlled. Criminal organizations including Mexican drug cartels are said to flout these rules and operate large marijuana cultivation centers in many parts of California, and local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are determined to stop them.
One investigation led to a raid on a marijuana cultivation operation near Crocker Mountain in Plumas County on July 31. Deputies assigned to the Plumas County Sheriff's Office SWAT team were supported during the raid by agents from the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Individuals representing the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting in Plumas County were also present. Community groups support law enforcement efforts to clamp down on illegal marijuana cultivation because these operations tend to use toxic chemicals to protect their crops and deprive local farmers of water.
The raid led to the destruction of 11,000 marijuana plants and the apprehension of a 52-year-old Mexican national who was found working in the facility. A PCSO representative told reporters that the operation may have been controlled by a drug cartel. The man taken into custody has been charged with drug possession, cultivation and distribution. He also faces a count of substantial stream diversion. A second suspect fled the scene and is being sought by police. Officials say that the investigation is ongoing and further arrests are possible.
When raids of this kind do not lead to the arrest of any high-profile suspects, those who are taken into custody often face a raft of charges. This might be done to encourage them to identify individuals of more interest to police. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may understand that this kind of information is extremely valuable to law enforcement, and they may urge prosecutors to dismiss charges against low-level suspects in return for it.