Desert community puts out the welcome mat and illegal grows bring chaos
While the City of Taft keeps its ban on all commercial cannabis operations in place, it is looking at another Kern County city as a textbook example of what not to do if it ever changes its policy towards cannabis grow/production businesses.
California City put out the welcome mat to commercial pot organization.
The desert city got a lot more than it bargained for. While gambling that allowing and even encouraging commercial sales and production would result in a boost to the local economy and a huge increase of taxes and fees into the city coffers, it has apparently turned into a costly fiasco as illegal marijuana grows have become a growing drain on the city's resources.
Hearing rumors of problems out there, Taft City Manager Craig Jones asked Chief of Police Ed Whiting to look into it
"We heard there was some chaos so the chief made some calls,"Jones said. "It appears there is total chaos."
Whiting spoke with California City Chief of Police Eric Hurtado
Whiting recounted what he was told to the Taft City Council Tuesday night
"It's literally out of control out there," he said. "People wanting to pay the fees and grow it with permits have started applying, but but so have illegal ones," Whiting said. "They invited them in, they said they were going to allow it. Commercial ones haven't started up. It's the illegal ones that are causing all the trouble."
The illegal grows have popped up in house rented by people from out of town.
Police raids have found the grows being tended by Chinese immigrants who speak only Mandarin Chinese, hinting at organized crime involvement.
"It looks a lot like human smuggling," he said.
The grow houses are using illegal electrical hookups and insecticides and fertilizers that are banned in the United States.
That means hazmat cleanups and even Kern County Environmental Health Department isn't going to help because of the expenses.
"Now they won't even show up," Whiting said.
It's so bad Hurtado told Whiting that local police have asked for federal law enforcement help.
That view is backed up by news from the California City Police Department.
Wednesday night police raided two more houses with marijuana grows in them, bringing to 17 the number of illegal marijuana grows found in the past two months.
Whiting said he was told that he city has received $1.2 million in permit fees for legal grows, but has spent $900,000 on consultants.
In the meantime, the police budget is being taxed by all the costs associated with dealing with the busts.
Four Seatrains have been rented to hold all the seized marijuana and other evidence, and overtime costs are soaring.