Multiple agencies responded to an illegal pot growing operation on Friday in the back county of Santa Barbra County. The sheriff's department released the following information:
Detectives from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit along with representatives from the California National Guard, United States Forest Service and Santa Barbara County Air Support Unit Copter 2 conducted a marijuana eradication operation today, September 20, in the Los Padres National Forest, adjacent to Happy Canyon Road.
Approximately two weeks ago, a hunter contacted law enforcement and provided information relating to a possible marijuana grow located about ¾ of a mile from the Happy Canyon Shooting Range. Based on the information provided, Detectives conducted a follow up investigation and determined there was an illegal marijuana growing operation in the area.
Around 6 a.m. this morning, law enforcement personnel began surveillance in the area and entered the marijuana grow. While conducting a security check of the grow, one suspect was observed and before he could be taken into custody, he fled on foot. As Detectives followed the suspect, they discovered a loaded Ruger rifle that the suspect had set down when he initially observed Detectives approaching. A second firearm, a Remington 30-06 semi-automatic rifle was also found within the grow.
A perimeter was established around the grow site and two suspects were taken into custody for several narcotics and firearm violations. Detectives seized approximately 100 pounds of processed/packaged marijuana that was being staged for a pick-up in the near future. The street value of the processed marijuana is approximately $250,000. The grow was suspected of at one time having 1,600 plants.
Arrested were 27 year old old Joel Santoyo Lopez and 37 year old Cipriano Arreola Torres. Both are Mexican nationals who entered the United States illegally. Bail was set at $50,000 each and a request for an immigration detainer was placed.
The Sheriff’s Office wants to remind the public that most of the illegal marijuana grows are on public lands, these areas are generally close to hiking trails and hunting areas. If you come into an area that you suspect is being used to grow marijuana, you should avoid contact with anyone who may be involved and contact law enforcement immediately. The suspects involved in marijuana growing operations are often armed, as in this case, and potentially dangerous.
It is important to note that illegal marijuana grows have a large amount of trash, including toxic chemicals. These items were discovered and transported out of the National Forest lands with the Sheriff’s helicopter. These marijuana growing operations on public lands are illegal in all circumstances, but they also have significant negative impacts upon our environment.
The individuals responsible for these illegal marijuana grows, cut down the native vegetation, introduce toxic chemicals into the National Forest lands, harm the wildlife and divert natural water supplies into naturally arid landscapes.
A major focus of these marijuana eradication operations is the removal of the chemicals, poisons and trash that were unlawfully introduced onto our National Forest lands.