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Drug bust in Anza has regional implications

A major, multi-agency drug bust in Anza last week resulted in multiple arrests and thousands of marijuana plants being confiscated from the illegal grows that were shut down, according to law enforcement officials. While the Riverside County Sheriff's Dept. executed the bust, due to some of the individuals' connectivity to San Diego County, authorities from both counties were involved.

The bust began in the early morning hours of March 30 when Riverside officers were joined by members of a Joint Task Force Team from San Diego to swarm the area in what was called a massive drug enforcement sweep of illegal grows in Anza and the surrounding communities.

Six illegal grows were shut down from March 30 to April 1 as deputies confiscated 15,301 marijuana plants and placed them into evidence. At $200 to $1,000 per pound in street value, it was stated that the plants confiscated were worth somewhere between $15.3 and $76.5 million, depending on the quality of the plants.

Seven people were arrested as a result of the investigations, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Paul Bennett told Valley News in an exclusive interview Friday, April 1, following the busts.

"Between March 30 and April 1 we hit a total of six massive grow operations," said Bennett. "All of them were related. A total of seven people were arrested, two of which were females."

Bennett said the plants varied in size from fully mature to non-budding plants at the six different locations.

Many marijuana growers have selected non-populated areas such as Anza and Aguanga to operate in order to avoid detection from law enforcement.

One woman who manages a business in Anza said many individuals from Fallbrook have moved to the area and have told her they are growing marijuana there because pressure from law enforcement in San Diego County was too frequent.

In a prepared statement, Bennett said there really is no way to determine the number of legal versus illegal grows in the Anza area, which is why law enforcement must conduct a complete investigation to determine if the grower is operating within the confines of the laws.

"Contrary to drug traffickers’ claims, California law does not allow the growth or sale of marijuana for profit," Bennett wrote in the statement. "State law is very specific, California has decriminalized the growth and use of marijuana only for seriously ill individuals with a doctor’s prescription and only in small amounts reasonably necessary to accommodate an individual’s medical condition."

People who choose to grow in excess of the limits are not exempt from criminal investigation or prosecution, even if they have a doctor’s recommendation for marijuana, the statement reported.

Debbie Ramsey, Managing Editor, Village News contributed to this story.

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