WATSONVILLE — Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies and the county’s Cannabis Licensing Office identified and dismantled two illegal commercial cannabis operations, including one of the largest unregulated grow sites in recent county history, county spokesman Jason Hoppin said.
The May 30 operation on Summit Road near Russell Ridge was the conclusion of an investigation that began in late 2018, when SCSO personnel saw several greenhouses on a parcel of land that had been graded and stripped of vegetation, Hoppin said.
During service of the warrant, investigators found more than 9,734 cannabis plants inside 11, 3,000-square-foot non-permitted greenhouses. They also found evidence of commercial cannabis cultivation, including numerous generators, pallets of soil and fertilizer.
Investigators believe the site was managed by four on-site staff that lived full-time in a small trailer and allowed sewage and other household fluids to run off onto the property without proper disposal.
The site appears to have been active for at least two years, with cannabis crops diverted to the black market, Hoppin said.
The property owner faces civil fines, and the property was red-tagged by county regulatory staff due to numerous building and grading violations.
No arrests have been made.
In a separate enforcement last week, Sheriff’s Office personnel executed a search warrant at a remote cultivation site north of Boulder Creek, which was discovered while investigating a separate nearby unregulated commercial cannabis cultivation.
This site included four greenhouses, and was operating without a local or state commercial cultivation license. Investigators seized 762 cannabis plants. The operator was contacted by personnel and cooperated with the investigation.
The operation is part of a growing problem of unpermitted cannabis grows found in rural parts of the county.
During the week of May 6, state and local officials executed a search warrant on eight land parcels in the 17000 block of Bear Creek Road in Boulder Creek. During the investigation, authorities seized 1,079 plants.
They also executed a search warrant for an 80-acre parcel of land in the 500 block of Whalebone Ranch Road in Boulder Creek.
There, investigators seized 1,673 cannabis plants inside large, non-permitted greenhouses, 61 pounds of processed cannabis, 50 pounds of recently harvested cannabis plants, 6.9 pounds of processed cannabis concentrate, gold and silver valued at approximately $67,000 and $53,330 in U.S. currency.