Marijuana education, rollout Saturday in Hilmar

A marijuana education event and Sheriff’s Department equipment rollout is planned for Saturday in Hilmar.

It will be co-hosted by the Merced County Sheriff’s Department and Hilmar Farm Watch. The activities are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in a parking lot at American and Lander avenues in Hilmar, Deputy Ray Framstad said.

Deputies will be on hand showcasing high-end equipment including helicopters and drive-team vehicles and watercraft. Previous equipment rollouts have included the Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter and a 1973 UH-1H, the Vietnam-era chopper commonly known as a Huey.

Deputies will also be educating the public on Merced County’s recently passed medical marijuana ordinance. The new county law, passed last year, established a limit of 12 marijuana plants per parcel of property in the county, regardless of the property’s size.

The Sheriff’s Department spent 2013 trying to educate medical marijuana growers regarding the ordinance and have stepped up enforcement this year under recently appointed Sheriff Tom Cavallero.

Deputies have called it a “zero-tolerance” approach and have seized thousands of plants from suspected commercial grows, while allowing residents with valid medical marijuana recommendations to keep 12 plants.

“This helps us educate people, which is a big part of what we’re doing (in addition) to the busts,” Framstad said.

Deputies will also address other emerging narcotics trends in the county, including the increasing use of marijuana and e-cigarettes.