Illegal marijuana cultivation sites in the Antelope Valley are tied to water theft and an uptick in violence in the area.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will consider a substitute motion that seeks enhanced enforcement against water theft and illegal cannabis grows in California’s Antelope Valley and illegal cannabis dispensaries in unincorporated LA County.
According to the Antelope Valley Press, the supervisors’ motion directs county departments to support or pursue legislation to amend state law against water theft and illegal cannabis grows and illegal cannabis dispensaries. This includes authorizing county counsel to civilly prosecute and enjoin water pollution from cannabis cultivation.
The motion addresses potential loopholes or exploitation by illegal cannabis growers, as well as increasing local government controls over illegal cannabis and unregistered hemp crops, reported the Antelope Valley Press. According to CNN, more than 12 billion gallons of water are estimated to have been stolen across the state since 2013. This has ultimately impacted legitimate farming operations, drinking water sources, Native American tribes and small communities.
According to the Antelope Valley Press, illegal marijuana cultivation sites in the Antelope Valley are tied to water theft and an uptick in violence in the area.
“Both plants are identical during their early growth stages,” said the motion. “Notwithstanding a lack of registration, illegal cannabis growers may claim their illegal cannabis operation is hemp to avoid or delay any enforcement. Residents, and businesses, in the county’s unincorporated areas also continue to be negatively impacted by the crime and nuisances that illegal cannabis dispensaries cause and attract.”
According to LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva during a press conference, residents and passersby have received threats of violence. He also mentioned that illegal grows were siphoning water from residents and farmers by tapping into fire hydrants and digging unpermitted wells, reported the Antelope Valley Press.
Illegal marijuana grow operations in the Antelope Valley in June resulted in more than 130 arrests and the seizure of marijuana with a street value of more than $1.19 billion, said Villanueva, reported the Antelope Valley Press.
According to the motion, there are still threats to the water system despite efforts to strengthen the Waterworks Districts’ infrastructure against theft and illegal tapping.
The Waterworks Districts provided funding to the sheriff’s Department for enhanced patrols in the Hi-Vista, where water theft impacted the water system the most. Funding for additional enforcement has run out, and the motion seeks to allocate $100,000 of discretionary funds from Barger’s Fifth District to continue protecting the infrastructure, reported the Antelope Valley Press.
The motion also seeks to shift $250,000 from the Fifth District’s one-time Consumer Protection Settlement fund allocation to pay for the sheriff’s department’s enforcement and patrols of the areas impacted by illegal grows and water theft in the Antelope Valley.