The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) have executed a search warrant in Sacramento, California, that resulted in the seizure of at least 12,000 cannabis plants from two local Native American reservations.
At this time, there are no federal charges and no other tribal property was taken into law enforcement custody. Acting in conjunction with the Modoc County Sheriff’s Office as well as multiple state and federal agencies, the DEA and BIA executed the search and seizure as part of a current investigation concerning the oversight of commercial cannabis cultivation ventures.
In addition to the plants, law enforcement officials confiscated more than 100 pounds of cured marijuana from the two facilities. The first compound on XL Ranch was expansive, and included 40 recently built greenhouses. The specially constructed area had an additional gable-roofed structure to increase square footage by 50 percent. Every house was capable of cultivating 1,000 cannabis plants each.
Another growing facility was found on the Alturas Indian Rancheria within 100 yards of the Desert Rose Casino, the tribe’s publicly managed gaming complex. Both operations were well over the local cannabis cultivation limits. The XL buildings could house 40,000-60,000 plants alone, which exceeds any known commercial cannabis cultivation enterprise in California’s Eastern District.
Tribal representatives state that all cannabis products would have been distributed to unidentified locations outside the boundaries of tribal land. So far, the investigation supports this statement though the exact destinations of the cannabis are not yet known. The affidavits suggest funding for both grow operations may have come from a foreign national.
The United States Attorney’s Office consulted with tribal leaders before taking action. After reminding the representatives of the plant’s federal illegality, the attorney’s office indicated that such large-scale commercial cannabis production undermines local regulations and is inconsistent with the state’s Compassionate Use Act.
After the federal government issued the Cole Memorandum, it agreed to not pursue the prosecution of law-abiding marijuana enterprises as long as individual states enforce a list of specified priorities. These include preventing possession and use on federal land, threats to public safety and distribution in unauthorized areas. Because the reservation is technically federal land and the intended distribution locations have not been specified, local and federal law enforcement officials are concerned about the two large commercial grow operations.
The search warrant affidavits are now a matter of public record, and the seizure has received reasonable publicity. For these reasons, the United Sates Attorney’s Office will likely issue public statements as the case continues, though the entity typically declines to comment on open investigations.
photo credit: DOJ