SFPD on fog-shrouded pot farms: too much green

By Terrapinzflyer · Oct 1, 2009 · ·
  1. Terrapinzflyer
    SFPD on fog-shrouded pot farms: too much green

    SAN FRANCISCO — Socked in by coastal fog, gardeners in the city's Sunset District struggle to coax vegetables from plots rarely touched by sunlight. But recently, a certain crop has flourished behind closed doors.
    Marijuana farms have become so widespread in this middle class neighborhood that the city's new police chief appealed to the public Wednesday for tips to help shut the operations down.

    Apparently even in this pot-tolerant town, there is such a thing as too much green.

    In the Sunset, police say row houses crammed with as many as 2,000 marijuana plants bear the marks of classic criminal enterprises.

    Raids on three dozen homes and warehouses have uncovered 20 guns, more than 8,000 plants and nearly $85,000. Investigators believe that organized crime is keeping the drugs, cash and weapons flowing. Often once grow houses are raided, police said, their backers just set up new operations down the street.

    "All this has led to the creation of a very dangerous situation," Chief George Gascon said.

    Growers are attracted by rents that are moderate by San Francisco standards. Coastal winds sweep pot's skunky smell away.

    Beyond the concern about drug-ripoff shootouts and deals gone bad, officials said the real worry is the potential for fire from houses gutted to create intensive urban farms.

    At a news conference Wednesday, San Francisco Fire Marshal Barbara Schultneis said growers rewire the homes to avoid detection of the huge spike in energy use needed to grow pot. Shoddy electrical work can spark blazes she said, as can hot grow lights used to simulate sunshine.

    Houses in the Sunset often share common walls, which allows fires to spread quickly. Growers often nail plywood to the insides of windows to keep out natural light and prying eyes, investigators said. As a result, fires can burn longer without being noticed.

    City firefighters typically battle two blazes a year caused by marijuana growing operations, Schultneis said. This year they have already fought four, including one at a warehouse that partially collapsed onto a firefighter, causing serious injuries.

    Conflict over grow houses has long been an issue in many small towns along California's North Coast, the heart of the state's pot-growing territory. The boom in San Francisco's indoor growing operations comes at a time when legalizing marijuana across the state has become a hot topic, and many pro-pot activists feel they are gaining traction with politicians and voters.

    The trend toward acceptance spurred by the spread of medical marijuana — legal under state law — has led to a common feeling that pot has essentially become legal, especially in liberal bastions like San Francisco.

    Many residents pride themselves on the city's well-established medical marijuana industry, which city agencies regulates like other businesses. Police even found that four of the 36 growing operations they raided in recent months complied with city and state medical marijuana regulations and let them keep their crop.

    Delivery services bring pot to patients' doors, and one politician is exploring ways for the city to distribute and tax medical marijuana itself.

    So it has surprised some that since arriving from Mesa, Ariz., in August, Gascon has launched his tenure as chief with multiple initiatives taking on the drug trade. He endured online jeering after it was reported that during his first tour of the city as chief, he was amazed to see drugs dealt openly in the Tenderloin, a district well-known as a magnet for addicts.

    But Gascon said the crackdown on grow houses in the Sunset has nothing to do with a political stance on pot.

    "This is not an argument about legalization or not legalization. This is really about public safety," Gascon said. "Quite frankly, we could end up burning an entire city block."



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  1. UberDouche
    Here we grow again. One step forward and two steps backwards.

    I can understand the concern about fires, but the concern about criminal elements could be eliminated via legalization. The argument for legalization is right there in front for all who wish to see it. I guess politicians don't want to be seen or heard saying that they are 'soft on crime'.
  2. Samadhi
    I love how they raided over 2 dozen places and when they found what they were looking for, they immediately jumped to "typical crime syndicate" and by god, there were 2 marijuana related fires in a YEAR?! I see more people crashing their cars every day than that because they are too busy on their iPhone to look up.

    Some of those illegal grows could have been going for dispensary use and some sales in the bay area for legal and illegal smoking by patients and patrons, but oh no, the growers are on the ass-end of the system, they are still doing a federal crime... they let 4 of them have their plants back?! they probably had 2 plants going or something.

    swim has heard of a grower doing 20-30 plants all for sale at the dispensary only, no back-door operation, just growing for patients and himself (he was a medical MJ user too obviously.) and his house was raided, he was treated like a prisoner of the state at the age of 58 years old, kept without a phone call for over 5 hours and had to cash out his 401k to get out of jail and prepare legal arguments... sounds like a rough crime boss to me...

    The backwards ass mentality of pot is seeming to unfurl a little, with social and technological advances of people the information that pot is not really as bad as propaganda makes it out to be. Hopefully, with the dying breed of the war on drugs, responsible cannabis users can go about and do what they please, going to canna-clubs, trying new types and flavors all for the benefit of the person choosing to partake. My vision for a future i guess hahaha.

    anyways this is in my opinion the result of illegalization, you get crime, you get secrecy and you get bad people involved inevitably. now, if people were allowed to grow a few cannabis plants in their yard every year, they could have enough to last them a year, and viola! no reason for organized crime to do the dirty work for you, the money would leave the hands of the hustlers and cannabis become a semi-non profit personal plant... because, it is just a little flower, just because it smells dank doesn't mean it should not be grown next to swiys corn stalks!!!
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