A hemp farm converted to a marijuana cultivation site was raided in Sage, where nearly 4,000 cannabis plants were seized, authorities said Thursday.
Riverside County sheriff’s deputies, joined by personnel from the Department of Code Enforcement and California Department of Fish & Wildlife, served a search warrant Wednesday in the unincorporated county community, though the specific location wasn’t disclosed.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Anthony Pelato said that the primary residence and 15 greenhouses on the property were being used to cultivate marijuana, resulting in the confiscation of about 3,800 plants and 1,700 pounds of processed weed.
No one was arrested.
Pelato said that the site had received county permits previously for hemp cultivation.
“Those persons permitted to produce hemp are encouraged to comply with all state and local laws pertaining to the THC parameters of hemp,” he said. “Anyone found to be cultivating high-level THC cannabis under their permitted hemp grow site will be identified, and the high-level TCH cannabis will be eradicated.”
According to the sergeant, the grow operation was additionally in violation of state environmental laws for illegally accessing a waterway running through the area.
The Board of Supervisors approved a Hemp Activities Ordinance in 2020, establishing guidelines and restrictions for cultivation of the product. More than 100 hemp farms had been authorized throughout the Anza Valley and neighboring locations prior to approval of the ordinance, and most of those were “grandfathered” into the permitting scheme, allowing them to continue to operate for specified periods before requiring new applications to be filed with the county Transportation & Land Management Agency.
The main difference between hemp and unadulterated marijuana is the tetrahydrocannabinol — or THC — content. Hemp leaves have about 0.3% of the compounds contained in cannabis leaves, according to the Office of County Counsel.
Unlike cannabis, hemp is not federally designated as a controlled substance, and production is permitted on Native American lands, under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians began permitting hemp grows near Mountain Center in January 2020.