Sen. Tom Berryhill hosted an informational briefing for growers and grower representatives on agricultural marijuana grows in the Central Valley on April 6 at the Fresno County Farm Bureau. Berryhill said this meeting was not about punishing farmers, it about informing them.
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims and Madera County Sheriff John Anderson were in attendance, as well Madera County District Attorney Michael Keitz, Fresno County Chief District Attorney Kelly Keenan and U.S. Attorney’s Office representatives. More than 50 growers, grower representatives, agricultural commissioners, district attorneys, partner law enforcement agencies, property owners and interested individuals took part in the event.
Over the last several years, law enforcement has observed a spike in large-scale marijuana grows occurring on agricultural land. In 2011, more than 110 agricultural-marijuana grows were identified in Fresno County alone, and another 60 were identified in Madera County.
Participants learned the scope of the problem in the Central Valley, the criminal and prosecutorial process for the producers and traffickers of marijuana and the civil asset forfeiture process for those landowners who choose to allow agricultural land to be used for marijuana production. Individuals had the opportunity to ask questions with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other local and federal law enforcement officials.
Mims told property owners they need to know what is going on their land. She said that the Sheriff’s Office and wants voluntary compliance, we don’t want to seize property. Letters have been sent out to property owners informing them of federal law and the potential to have their property seized if illegal marijuana grows are present. To date there has been 100 percent compliance with land owners. Mims also informed attendees that the Sheriff’s office is available to assist owners by serving eviction notices.
Keitz urged land owners to examine their farmland and rental properties on a regular basis. He said property owners need to protect themselves by including exit provisions in their lease agreements that allow for inspections and language that permits them to get out of the contract when illegal activities, such as illicit marijuana grows, are occurring on their property.
Courtesy of Lee Whistler, Realtor for Century 21 M&M Clovis