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Cannabis Compliance Team seizes more than 1,500 marijuana plants on Central Coast

The newly funded Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Cannabis Compliance Team has seized more than 1,500 marijuana plants on the Central Coast, eradicating $750,000 worth of potentially illegal pot.

Investigators from the Sheriff’s Special Investigations Bureau, Santa Barbara Police Dept., California Fish & Wildlife, County District Attorney’s Office, and the County’s Planning and Development Dept served a series of search warrants in Nipomo, Santa Barbara County and Paso Verdes involved in the illegal cultivation of marijuana on Thursday, September 6th.

“At this time we’ve identified people that are suspects in the cultivation of the marijuana but as of this time, we haven’t arrested anyone due to the fact that we’re still investigating and we’re identifying all the possible violations that occurred,” said Lt. Brian Olmstead, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.

Lt. Olmstead says a big part of those violations center around environmental crimes and figuring out if the proper paperwork was filed with the county and state.

Investigators served a search warrant to a 62-year old Palos Verdes resident in the 500 block of Via Estrada Drive and found numerous documents related to illegal cultivation sites in the Tepusquet area. Investigators also found a false marijuana cultivation document filed with the county.

Olmstead says a Palos Verdes resident is their primary suspect but they do believe there are additional people they need to identify.

Investigators also served search warrants at properties located in the 7900 block of Blazing Saddle Drive and the 1800 block of Tepusquet Road in Santa Maria. At these locations, investigators found a large cultivation site and an additional site being prepared for marijuana cultivation.

“We think that they were consciously cultivating marijuana illegally. Both the county and the State of California have developed steps for someone to legally cultivate cannabis, to go through that process and as of this time, we haven’t been able to identify that they went through the proper process,” said Lt. Olmstead.

Investigators seized more than 1,400 marijuana plants in total at these locations. They also found violations involving disruptions to the stream bed and grading.

“As far as we can tell, so far, since they filed the false paperwork, they were illegally growing it. They didn’t go through the proper process, we’re still investigating on what their exact motivation was although we do know they were cultivating marijuana to try and profit from it,” said Lt.Olmstead.

While investigators were eradicating the marijuana plants, they observed a neighboring property with illegal marijuana cultivation in the 1800 block of Tepusquet Road. Investigators conducted an investigation and seized an additional 174 marijuana plants.

“It’s kind of shocking I wasn’t really aware that that was going on around here,” said Ed Alvarez of Nipomo.

A follow-up search warrant took investigators to the 800 block of Chata Street in Nipomo, where a small amount of heroin and additional marijuana cultivation related documents were found.

“There’s a few renters in the neighborhood that we’re not really sure, we don’t really know. They’re kind of out and about, come in at all hours of the night and they don’t really interact with many people around,” said Alvarez.

Other folks in Alvarez’s neighborhood who declined an on-camera interview told us that they would frequently see multiple dirty cars at the home in question, that looked like they had been up a dirt road. Neighbors also back up Alvarez’s claims that people were known to come and go at all hours of the night.

The Sheriff’s Office and the County District Attorney’s Office would like to remind people that the County has developed an ordinance that provides a path to legally cultivate marijuana within the county.

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