Jul 8, 2015 3:22 PM by News Staff
Earlier today, special agents with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Drug Enforcement Administration raided marijuana grows on federally recognized tribal lands at the Alturas Indian Rancheria and the XL Ranch in Modoc County.
At both sites, law enforcement seized a total of at least 12,000 marijuana plants and over 100 pounds of processed marijuana. Other than contraband marijuana and items of evidentiary value, no tribal property was seized, and no federal charges are pending.
According to the U.S. Attorney's office, the search warrants are part of an ongoing investigation relating to the financing and management of the commercial marijuana-cultivation projects.
The cultivation facility at the Alturas Indian Rancheria was located within the tribe's former Event Center, within approximately 100 yards of the tribe's publicly operated gaming facility, the Desert Rose Casino.
The facility on the XL Ranch was immediately adjacent to Highway 395 and the banks of the Pit River, and it consisted of 40 newly constructed greenhouse structures, each of which was capable of accommodating approximately 1,000 marijuana plants, and an additional gable-roofed structure that boosted the square footage of roof-covered structures by another 50 percent.
The volume of marijuana that the XL facility alone was capable of producing, estimated at approximately 40,000-60,000 plants, far exceeds any prior known commercial marijuana grow operation.
According to tribal representatives, all of the marijuana cultivated at both facilities was intended to be distributed off tribal lands at various unidentified locations. As indicated in the search warrant affidavits, the investigation to date indicates both operations may have been financed by a third-party foreign national.
The Department of Justice announced in December that Indian tribes may grow and sell marijuana if they follow the same public safety and non-diversion policies required of states that have legalized the drug for medical or recreational use.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said in a news release that officials consulted with members and representatives of both tribes on multiple occasions, and reminded the tribes the cultivation of marijuana is illegal under federal law and that anyone engaging in such activity did so at the risk of enforcement action. The U.S. Attorney's Office also expressed concern that large-scale commercial marijuana grows on tribal lands have the potential to introduce quantities of marijuana in a manner that violates federal law, is not consistent with California's Compassionate Use Act, and undermines locally enacted marijuana regulations.