Thefts of marijuana plants on the rise
It's the beginning of harvest season — and that means a seasonal increase in theft of medical marijuana plants.
In the last four days alone, three incidents were reported to the Nevada County Sheriff's Office.
“It's that time of the year,” said sheriff's Capt. Jeff Powell. “Between now and the end of October, the plants are maturing and it's getting time to steal them because the buds are getting big — they have the THC in them.
“I think this year, we're seeing quite a few more (thefts),” he continued. “A lot more people are growing medical marijuana nowadays. They're able to get more scrips, so they feel more comfortable.”
Tuesday night, a man from Rocker Road reported youths stole medical marijuana plants over the weekend.
He saw them trying to steal more plants and confronted them. He told a dispatcher he did not want to pursue criminal charges, however, and would look into a restraining order.
A woman from Kangaroo Court reported the theft of six marijuana plants while she was home, sometime between midnight and 6 a.m. Tuesday.
The homeowner, who wanted to remain anonymous due to security concerns, said the plants belonged to her sister, who has a medical marijuana prescription for fibromyalgia.
The woman said the plants were in a fenced and tarped garden, but were visible from the street.
“Somebody had been watching,” she said. “They cut a hole in the fence.”
The woman believed her sister scared the culprits off when she got up at 3 a.m. and turned on some lights.
They left behind part of the plants, as well as a crowbar and a tire iron.
“I'm sure they were anticipating using them on a dog,” the woman said of the abandoned tools.
The victim said the plants weren't even mature yet and the theft means her sister will have to purchase marijuana from a dispensary, at a cost of approximately $400 a month.
“We're afraid to leave the house,” she said. “We're afraid they might come back and try to see if we have any inside. It's kind of scary.”
Friday at 1 a.m., a man from Orchard Springs Road reported someone broke into his shop and took several marijuana plants. Several of his friends detained a suspect in the parking lot of a nearby store.
“They couldn't link that person to the theft, so he was released,” Powell said. “The deputy went back to the victim's house to take down his information and found a vehicle with two people in it who admitted to stealing marijuana from someone's garden. They had cutting tools in their possession.”
Donald Ray Furino, 50, of Oakland, was arrested on suspicion of criminal conspiracy and attempted grand theft and booked into county jail in lieu of $10,000 bail.
Michael Pederson, of Hayward, was cited on the same charges and taken to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital for unspecified injuries.
Powell noted the third man who had been released due to lack of evidence also was from the Bay Area.
The victim estimated the loss at about $10,000, he said.
Powell had some advice for county residents growing medical marijuana.
“Don't advertise that you're growing,” he said. “Keep the information to yourself.”
And if you hear someone in your garden in the middle of the night, he added, “Don't confront them. That's number one.”
Powell noted there have been violent incidents in the past, including shootings last year.
“We've had none so far this year, knock on wood,” he said. “You have a right to defend your property, but you don't know who's out there.”
By Liz Kellar