Elk Grove police served warrants on four houses in the Franklin neighborhood last week, discovering thousands of marijuana plants.
Five men were arrested Thursday at one of the locations in the 5500 block of Foxview Way around 7 a.m. Officers confiscated 2,800 plants and more than 50 pounds of marijuana. Two of the men were from Elk Grove – Shanzhi Zhao, 56, and Biji Chen, 66.
The other three are from the East Coast – Ru Zhu, 52, of Brooklyn; Zu Lin, 52, of New York City; and Bao Lian, 59, of Philadelphia.
Recreational marijuana use was legalized by the voters in November 2016, but restrictions remain on growing the plant. In Elk Grove, people are allowed six plants for personal use as required by state law.
Elk Grove Police Department spokesman Christopher Trim said it’s unusual for suspects in a marijuana growing case to be from so far out of town.
“Typically they’re local residents,” he said, either from Elk Grove or Sacramento.
The homes will be emptied of evidence and red-tagged for code enforcement, Trim said. He said generally that the department does not release whether the homes are owner-occupied in situations like growing busts because there could be an ongoing investigation.
Trim said growing operations are a challenge the city has faced since it first formed its own police force in 2006. Citizen tips and the street crimes unit have led to numerous busts. In one instance in 2016, a tip from a neighborhood watch group led to the discovery of three grow houses.
“It’s something we are very well versed in as far as the investigative side,” he said.
Two days before the Elk Grove arrests, Roseville police made a similar bust. They arrested three people in connection with two grow houses in the West Park neighborhood. Police confiscated 1,100 marijuana plants, estimated to be worth $1.17 million. Investigators determined the marijuana would have been shipped to New York for illegal sales.
Asked about connections between the cases, Trim said he can’t comment on Roseville arrests or ongoing investigations.
In July, federal officers raided nine homes in the region searching for marijuana, including three in Elk Grove that yielded a combined 1,966 plants. The suspects arrested all had out-of-state driver’s licenses.