The Merced County Sheriff’s Office located thousands of pounds of marijuana at a large-scale marijuana operation in the 11000 block of Newport Road in Ballico on Thursday.
The bust was the result of a joint investigation by the Merced Area Gang and Narcotic Enforcement Team, according to Sgt. Ray Framstad.
Deputy Daryl Allen confirmed 3,300 pounds of marijuana was confiscated from the illegal operation and that the suspects will be charged with cultivation for sales and possession for sales, both of which are misdemeanors. He estimated the total street value at around $2 million.
They discovered seven drying rooms and one processing room in abandoned structures near an orchard. According to Framstad, six people ran from the location when authorities arrived.
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Two people were later apprehended. They were from out of state and being paid to process marijuana at the Ballico location, said Framstad.
Authorities discovered several hundred marijuana plants growing on the property near the abandoned structures leading law enforcement to believe that this is a large distribution area, according to Framstad.
“Trucks have been seen coming and going from the property which we believe were dropping off processed marijuana that has been cut from other locations and dried here,” said Framstad.
Approximately three months ago, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office harvested about 1,000 plants at the location and confiscated several firearms found on the property, according to Framstad.
“This investigation, it just shows the partnership between the Drug Task Force, the Merced County Sheriff’s Department and other entities within the county that work together to try to rid not only the illegal grows from the property but also go after the absentee homeowners that allow this to occur,” he said.
Framstad said that some grows such as this one use toxic pesticides and pose a danger to not only area farmers and residents but also sheriff’s deputies.
Hired security at abandoned properties, booby traps, chemicals, exposed electrical wires, and unstable structures are just some of the dangers deputies face when responding to marijuana grows, he said.
“This is a high volume even for us at the sheriff’s department,” said Framstad.