Three men, including one from Mexico, are accused of growing more than 10,000 illegal marijuana plants and stealing 360,000 gallons of water after the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office raided a property near Sprague River.
Police found 20 greenhouses with thousands of unsanctioned marijuana plants at the alleged illegal growing operation after serving a search warrant Tuesday, Aug. 2.
The sheriff’s office estimates the weed grow also illegally used 360,000 gallons of groundwater over a four-month span as part of an irrigation system discovered at the Oregon property.
Marijuana is legal in Oregon and California but the region continues to see a proliferation of unlicensed and unregulated cannabis farms and growing operations in rural areas such as the Klamath Basin.
KCSO said the Sprague River property belongs to Erick Vianey Castillo-Vasquez. Police said several people fled on foot into nearby forest and were not located.
Three men were arrested on unlawful possession and manufacturing of marijuana charges as well as unlawful use of ground water charges.
Brian Valencia-Nieto, 22, of Mexico; Salvador Lopez -Lopez, 30, of Corning, Calif.; and Jose Anguiano-Perez, 48, of Pasco, Wash., were arrested and booked into Klamath County Jail, according to police.
Police departments throughout Southern Oregon and Northern California have been conducting raids on illegal operations growing unsanctioned and unregulated cannabis.
High taxes and fees on legal marijuana, especially in California, combined with continued cannabis prohibitions federally and in states such as Idaho, Florida and Texas, drives demand for illegal pot.
Property owners who host the pot grows can face expensive citations for unlicensed greenhouses and water use. The growers themselves also can face criminal charges for stealing groundwater or water from lakes and ponds.
Another man, Jose Anguiano-Perez, also was arrested for possession of methamphetamine, during the Sprague River raid, according to police.