Yes, you can find marijuana just about anywhere these days, and voters approved recreational use for adults last November. But you still can’t go growing it in the forest, especially if you’re tending nearly 5,000 plants.
Federal officials say they arrested two men from Michoacan, Mexico, last week who were tending a massive pot field in the remote areas of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest near the old gold mining community of Denny.
Marco Cabrera-Sagrero and Carlos Martinez-Duarte appeared in federal court Tuesday afternoon in Sacramento and were ordered detained after being arrested and charged with manufacturing marijuana in the Trinity Alps Wilderness.
Their troubles began on May 30, when a law enforcement helicopter flying reconnaissance over the area spotted four large pot grows, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court.
Five weeks later, on July 7, a team of 12 officers and two K9 police dogs hiked into the rugged wilderness, finding a trail about 8:30 a.m. that led to a makeshift camp, according to the complaint. There, officers saw sea bags hanging from trees, an improvised kitchen with a propane stove and two men in a meadow nearby watering marijuana plants, the complaint says.
The officers watched for a while as the men used black pipes to water the plants, then began moving toward them, according to an affidavit filed by U.S. Forest Service special agent Nickolas Roe.
The suspects spotted the officers and began running, prompting Trinity County sheriff’s Sgt. Nate Trujillo to dispatch his K9, Johnny, on a 50-yard run that resulted in Cabrera-Sagrero’s apprehension. Forest Service Officer Tyler Bolen chased down the other suspect, and both men were arrested, the complaint states.
Officers found pesticides, fertilizers and makeshift water diversion devices, as well as 4,870 marijuana plants that they destroyed, the complaint states.
Martinez-Duarte later described how lucrative the work growing marijuana had been, according to court documents. He said he crossed the U.S. border in 2014 and grew $136,000 worth of plants, receiving $20,000 for his efforts and returning to Mexico in 2015. In February, Martinez-Duarte returned, staying in Red Bluff for two months and arriving at the Trinity County marijuana plantation on April 20.
His job, court documents say, was to grow, fertilize and water the plants at five different sites with a group of other men who were there. Several of the men apparently took off when they spotted the helicopter flying overhead.
Cabrera-Sagrero told investigators he crossed the border in March and made his way to Red Bluff, where an old friend offered him a job growing pot.
“He did not say where he stayed in Red Bluff, who the boss is or who dropped him off,” the affidavit says, but he told officers he was taken to the site on April 20 in a white, four-door Dodge pickup truck with a camper shell.
Once a month, he said, someone dropped off food for the growers near a creek and road below the grow site, with the last drop being made July 2, five days before the raid.
“Both suspects appeared to have been there for an extended period of time, given their dirty clothes, boots and hands,” the affidavit says, and both men ended up in the Trinity County Jail before being brought to Sacramento for court.