WINTON -- Several hundred pounds of marijuana were found at a Winton home Thursday, but Merced County sheriff's deputies didn't confiscate it or make any arrests because one or more occupants has a medical marijuana card, deputies said.
However, three horses, a donkey and three dogs were removed from the home because of concerns about neglect.
About 9 a.m. Thursday, the sheriff's department assisted Merced County Animal Control officers in serving a search warrant at the home on Santa Fe Drive near Shaffer Road, said sheriff's spokesman Tom Mac-Kenzie. Animal control was conducting an investigation about some emaciated horses, he said.
All animals removed from the home are under veterinary care, said Cerissa Hultgren, an animal control officer. Other animals were left at the residence.
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It's unknown if any animal cruelty charges will be filed, Hultgren said. She couldn't disclose where the animals are being treated, citing the investigation.
While the property was being searched, deputies came across several hundred pounds of marijuana. MacKenzie estimated that 300 to 500 pounds of unpro-cessed marijuana was found in one of the barns on the property.
Another 40 to 50 1-pound bags of processed marijuana were found inside the home, he said. The marijuana carries a street value of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Several marijuana plants were found outside the home.
However, after deputies interviewed five individuals involved, they discovered that one or more is on medicinal marijuana and had the necessary paperwork.
It's unknown how many of the people living at the home have a medical marijuana card, MacKenzie said.
Because the Merced County District Attorney's Office has been reluctant to prosecute cases involving medicinal marijuana, deputies decided not to seize the pot or make any arrests, MacKenzie said, noting that, based on previous cases, it's difficult to prosecute someone who is on medicinal marijuana.
Deputies probably would have to return the marijuana or reimburse the cost of it to the person with the medical marijuana card, he said.
The Merced High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force conducted its own investigation.
A veterinarian was on site evaluating the animals to determine their status before they were removed from the home. Hultgren said she expects the investigation on the animals to be completed sometime next week.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209)385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.