Deputies Remove Thousands of Marijuana Plants from Illegal Grow in Calaveras County

CALAVERAS COUNTY -- One by one, deputies ripped thousands of large marijuana plants from the ground in rural Calaveras County.

"We had an abatement warrant on this property, it's about eight acres, seven of it is covered in marijuana," said Sgt. Josh Crabtree.

Crabtree said the land owner rents out 15 plots for marijuana grows; much more than the county allows.

"The scale, the size of this one is the biggest we've seen so far, and the environmental impact this one is going to have is probably the worst we've seen," Crabtree said.

Crabtree said the owner began this large operation after his home burned in the Butte Fire last year.

And he's not alone, the massive wildfire burned hundreds of homes. Residents left and marijuana growers moved in.

"They've overwhelmed us with the amount of marijuana that's here," Crabtree said.

Now Calaveras County is forced to regulate the flood of new pot grows.

"As a law enforcement officer, everything has always been illegal, so now for me I have to get over the fact that this is how things are, this is, I guess, where the future's headed," Crabtree said.

A big transition for law enforcement, now working through uncharted territory.

"On top of the 1,000 people that registered, there's countless illegal grows, so it's out of hand, but we're fine tuning our processes," said Code Enforcement Officer Sabrina Cable.

Cable says many growers in the county are either operating illegally or not educating themselves about the new rules.

On this land, the owner was denied a permit to legally grow marijuana.

Now, thousands of dollars in fines are piling up ,and the owner will have to cover the cost of hacking, hauling and airlifting thousands of marijuana plants from the property.

The land owner could face criminal charges for the environmental damage caused by the illegal grows.