California Valley sprouting pot farms

July 21, 2016

More than 100 pot farms of varying sizes and levels of sophistication have quietly sprung up in the California Valley, with little or no effort to conceal what likely are legal growing operations. Photos by Daniel Blackburn



Isolated and sparsely populated California Valley, on the eastern edge of San Luis Obispo County, is parched, flat terrain, part of the largest remaining native grassland in California.  And now it’s becoming known for the widespread — and wide open — introduction of a not-so-native grass, as in high-grade marijuana.

Sheriff’s deputies occasionally cruise the dusty streets of California Valley, sometimes stopping to talk to the pot growers, but the lawmen take no action.

Everything that is occurring is perfectly legal under California law.

Large commercial pot farms have sprung up on numerous parcels of land in this desolate area adjacent to the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Law enforcement, in fact, puts the number of fenced half-acre to two-and-a-half-acre farms at more than 100.

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Most of the farms are fenced, some fragilely, others with serious security in mind. Some residences even  have substantial crops growing in plain sight, like miniature orchards.

Sheriff Ian Parkinson said in an email to CalCoastNews that his office “has received many complaints from residents of California Valley regarding their concerns over environmental issues, water use and general safety concerns.” The unincorporated community is home to about 500 people — some of whom have recently sold their homes for cash.

One person living near California Valley is worried about the nearly-predictable potential for a significant outbreak in crime in the near future. She asked her name not be used, saying she believes there are gang connections to the farms.

“Those plants are not worth anything today,” she said. “But when they bud (flower), that’s when it’ll start.” She said she has seen trucks carrying dozens of outhouses to the farms. And at night, she added, “you can see the lights of trucks” transporting agricultural supplies.

There are farms in all stages of development, from staked-out start-ups to large operations showing tall plants over six-foot fencing. Some farms are open, others support extensive greenhouse structures. Visible are water towers, solar panels, trailers and outhouses for workers, even a windmill trying to dredge water from sparse underground supplies. Most farms are supplied by regular deliveries from water truck owners, several of whom could be seen this day making deliveries of several thousand gallons to each farming client.

California Valley lots that were virtually valueless a few years ago have been selling rapidly for upwards of $30,000 until recently (as this season’s pot growing and harvest window has nearly closed). Many of the individuals purchasing the land tried unsuccessfully to pay in cash, according to local Realtor Mike Ryan, who sold property in California Valley.

On a recent visit to the area, a reporter talked to one grower, a tiny Asian man wearing a broad hat and wrapped against the blazing sun, who expressed in broken English typical farmer-like concerns about water, planting schedules, herbivores, and crop thieves.

The man didn’t want to be identified, and he abruptly dismissed a request to photograph around his foot-high plants. He said his grow, irrigated through a complex series of drip lines, will take several months to flower and produce buds for eventual sale through medical marijuana cooperatives and other outlets legalized by voter approval of Prop. 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.

Parkinson said his deputies “determined that many of the growers moved into the area just to grow marijuana. In many cases, they came to San Luis Obispo County from neighboring counties that have ordinances regarding the size of grow locations and the number of plants.”

Noting that this county does not have such an ordinance yet, Parkinson said he has “requested assistance of County Code Enforcement to enforce obvious health and safety violations. Until an ordinance is developed, it is difficult to address the concerns of the community in criminal court.”

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On July 26, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss developing an ordinance regulating marijuana grows in the unincorporated areas of the county, such as the California Valley.

“We will begin the process of making thoughtful decisions on zoning for marijuana on Tuesday,” Supervisor Debbie Arnold said. “We need to remedy issues with marijuana cultivation without loopholes. I am concerned because it is a very remote area and water is not plentiful.”

Growers now planting in California Valley, said one person familiar with several of the operations, are banking on a successful current season to amortize their initial investment, and being fully operational and prepared to expand if state voters approve legalization of marijuana for all uses in November.

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The answer is real simple people.

Legalize it and let competition bring the price down. A lb. of roasted coffee costs $8. A bushel of corn costs $4. But an ounce of pot costs $240. It’s a serious disconnect. Pot is one of the easiest things to grow–almost as easy as a weed.

Let the free market take over and the good guys will eliminate the bad guys through market forces. Keep it illegal and/or highly regulated and/or prices artificially high and you create incentive for the bad guys.

Proof you say? You want proof? Prohibition. It’s all the proof you need.

Make it legal and you’ll have people like the Resniks get into the game and suck every drop of water out of the ground to irrigate pot hills where oaks once grew.

The relatively high price of cannabis attracts people who can make a buck: gangs, people such as the Resniks, etc. If you want to see these type of people disappear, truly legalize and watch the price drop. The price has always been high and remains high; the question you have to ask is: who benefits the most from the high price?

$240 for an ounce is a pretty good price. I’d cap it at $200 though

In the 60s & 70s it cost $10 per oz. in Southern CA. The cost of Mexican H2O and the risk of crossing the border was included. Considering inflation that is roughly $70 today. $240 is a lot of moola for the mota if you consider that the cost of risk and water cancel each other out.

$10 per ounce of poorly grown outdoor Sativa loaded with seeds and compressed into bricks, yeah. The quality difference between that and what is on the market now is like the difference between Lucky Lager and an expensive Belgian Ale.

“and being fully operational and prepared to expand if state voters approve legalization of marijuana for all uses in November.”

Nope….. Nothing about AUMA ( Prop 64) Will further the Cannabis legalization progress in California. In fact; it only degrades and steals years of hard fought freedom. What would you expect from a bill sponsored by a multi billionaire elite than donates millions to the Clinton Foundation?

No Thanks. I will wait for a REAL legalization bill; like CCHI 2016 was. Too bad the billionaires only back the bills that make them more money.

“Legalization” or….. ” Regulation ” ?

I will take one; they can shove the other.

The small northern ca pot towns have crime rates worst than big cities , alot of squatters move in and grow till they get ran off , lakes and streams filled with butane cans , one bust in the middle of town where houses are 5 feet apart there was 1100 cans of butane , honey oil labs plus of course the meth labs mixed in with the pot , but it keeps northern ca towns afloat , honey oil labs in massive apt complexes makes for some real exciting news

Yet as you drive out to California Valley, you pass about a bajillion grape farms. Think about all the government bean counters reading this article and trying to figure out how to tax this stuff… I guess it’s time to call the PPP: Parkinson’s Panga Patrol.

SLOBIRD. I live in northern california and I am not seeing what you are describing at all. By far it is more serene peaceful and harmonious. The only damage to speak of comes from remote illegal grows in which harmful chemicals are used and trash is left behind. I highly highly doubt the increase of LEGAL cultivation will elevate violence or create an increased risk to Law Enforcement. This paranoia and fear is a little overboard and unsubstantiated.

And… it’s outdoor growing, which means they are not taxing California’s power grid.

best not vote for AUMA then !

PG&E are slobbering all over the thought of that bill passing…

Thank you, 805… I have been talking with friends living in the “Emerald Triangle” of Trinity, Mendocino and Humboldt counties, particularly Humboldt where they live, for the last several years and they have told us horror stories about the increase in major crimes, gangs and mayhem occurring in this County as it has been overrun with marijuana growers. According to them, it has changed the demographics of the counties. Since they are good reliable citizens with no fight in the barn I trust the reliablily of their information.

OR.. you could just look up the crime statistics because even good reliable citizens are notorious for inaccurate impressions garnered from anecdotal experience.

This vehicle was seen in the immediate area.

Great, this only means corruption, more illegal activities, violence and crime. At less the Sheriff’s Dept now has an airplane and can patrol by air. Next, we will need a substation out there and there is good reason they have chosen that location. Go to Northern California and see what has happened to the quality of life up there. More dangerous activities for our Blue Lives to have to deal with!

When the County approved the solar farm and all the jobs it would bring they forgot to mention what type of jobs they would bring.

This is a hornet’s nest ready to hatch!

“More” dangerous activities for cops? More? The job of a police officer is incredibly safe.\

That’s the official Bureau of Land Management site about Carrizo Plain. I mean, you’re online, I just Googled it.

I have a slightly-off-topic question:

What is the Carrizo Plain National Monument a monument to? I did not know it was a monument until I read this; all other info on Carrizo was just regarding the solar farm stuff… Now I know, but I am uncertain as to what it is a monument to.

A National Monument is, per the Bureau of Land Management, a place (such as an old building or an area of land) that is owned and protected by a national government because of its natural beauty or its importance to history or science. This designation was started in 1916 by Teddy Roosevelt and today there are over 100 of them.

Aren’t there some ancient native hieroglyphs or rock paintings out there?

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