As medical marijuana use and collectives continue to grow in the north state, so does the amount of pot grown both indoors and outdoors by people with doctors' recommendations for the drug.
"It's everywhere," said Lt. Jeff Foster of the Shasta County Sheriff's Office.
And as leaders in Redding and other cities throughout the north state continue to debate how they may regulate the new businesses, law enforcement agencies are trying to make sure growers don't plant more than the allowed amounts. At the same time, the collectives are trying to maintain a supply for the increasing demand.
Owners at three of the more than 20 collectives in Redding said they fill their jars with marijuana grown by their members.
"A good portion of the marijuana here is patient-grown," said Allen Perry, co-owner of the River Valley Collective next door to the Cascade Theatre in downtown Redding. "Everybody has a little extra."
Under state law, people with a medical marijuana recommendation or their caregiver can maintain up to six mature plants. Any excess grown can then be sold to a collective at a price that covers the cost of production, plus a reasonable salary, Perry said.
He said River Valley has about 500 members and from five to 20 of them come in daily to sell their extra marijuana. He said they can make about $200 to $500 per year selling their excess.
Sheriff's officials say it can be much more profitable if a grower decides to break the rules.
Twenty outdoor plants can produce more than 100 pounds, Foster said, possibly bringing more than $200,000 when sold to collectives - which he said pay about $2,000 per pound.
Given the poor state of the economy, people with recommendations are tempted to make money selling marijuana, Foster said.
Sgt. Steve Solus said about 7 out of 10 people growing pot in the county saying it was for a medicinal purposes this year were out of compliance for having too many plants, a expired recommendation or no recommendation at all. Sheriff's deputies this year pulled about 10,000 plants from 50 outdoor and indoor gardens, including 800 plants from one Whitmore garden grown by a man with one recommendation.
In Redding, the level of compliance was reversed, with 26 out of 36 - about 70 percent - indoor and outdoor gardens meeting legal guidelines, said Sgt. Jeff Wallace of the Redding Police Department.
Like Foster, Wallace said the possibility of a profit is what motivates people to grow more than allowed.
"People are making a lot of money behind this," he said.
As more people receive doctors' recommendations for marijuana and more collectives open, there will likely be larger consolidated gardens, said Steve Gasparas, owner of the Redding iCenter, a collective on California Street. Caregivers and patients can consolidate their recommendations, he said, growing six plants each in a garden.
He said he'd eventually like to see warehouses for marijuana holding as many as 20,000 plants. Such large gardens would lower the number of smaller gardens scattered around town, which can attract robbers when outdoors, and can be a fire hazard when indoors because of the intense lights used.
"I don't want to live next to a (grow) house and I am in the business," Gasparas said.
October 31, 2009
Medical marijuana demand continues, suppliers abound