The jury-rigged electrical bypass systems that eight California marijuana growers cooked up weren’t just illegal — they were extremely dangerous, according to police.
At four homes in Murrieta, police discovered this month that illegal pot growers were using electrical bypasses to steal some $200,000 worth of electricity, authorities announced Tuesday. That pilfered electricity was fueling the growth of 7,000 marijuana plants.
Authorities raided the first home on Aug. 2, expecting to find an illegal marijuana grow. But in addition to the 2,800 plants inside that home alone, police also discovered the operation had stolen $46,000 in electricity there, police said.
The search led police to three other homes as well, which were all searched on Aug. 10. Each was host to a huge number of marijuana plants and even more stolen power, according to police.
And that electricity stealing was a big hazard — to “not only the criminal, but to the nearby homes and businesses,” Murrieta police wrote on Facebook Tuesday.
Why so perilous, though?
As if to demonstrate the pitfalls of poorly cobbled together electrical systems, authorities found evidence in one of the Murrieta home’s garages that an electrical bypass had ignited a fire, police said. The fire had been put out, but could have caused significant damage otherwise, according to police.
Eight people were implicated in the operation and arrested, police said: 55-year-old Jing Li, 63-year-old Huang Zhang, 49-year-old Lai Zhang, 38-year-old Xiuxia Zhu, 51-year-old Xue Tang, 42-year-old Tian Zhang, 65-year-old Sheng Zhang and 51-year-old Shan Ye.
They face charges of grand theft of utilities, grand theft, conspiracy, cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale, police said. Each was booked at the Cois Byrd Detention Center.
Growing marijuana is incredibly energy-intensive, requiring huge amounts of power for lights, ventilation and heating the plants need to thrive.
Colorado learned that firsthand after legalizing marijuana. Two years into legalization in the state, the 362 pot-growing operations in Denver were burning through more than 2 percent of the city’s electricity, the Guardian reports.