The Kern County Sheriff’s Office received information about several hemp cultivation sites that were actively cultivating marijuana. The Kern County Sheriff’s Office, with the assistance of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), initiated a joint investigation.
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On October 25, 2019, a search warrant was executed at eleven different fields in the Arvin area, amounting to over 459 acres of land. Investigators with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics units seized and eradicated approximately 10 million marijuana plants. These plants have an estimated value of over $1 billion on the black market.
These illicit marijuana gardens were grown under the guise of legitimate hemp production. The Food and Agricultural Code and Health and Safety Code define industrial hemp as containing less than 0.3% THC content. The research exemption allows for cultivators to grow and possess hemp/cannabis that is over 0.3% THC content, “if that cultivation or possession contributes to the development of types of industrial hemp that will comply with the three-tenths of 1 percent THC limit established in this division.” This provision does not allow the commercial sale of hemp or cannabis that is over this threshold.
Preliminary testing showed the levels of THC in these fields were well over the legal limit for industrial hemp production and were in fact cannabis. The investigation is ongoing.