Illegal indoor marijuana grow operation discovered by Pueblo County Sheriff's Narcotics Investigators in May 2016. (Pueblo Sheriff's Office)

Humboldt County launches campaign against illegal indoor cannabis grows

“Six plants is not the problem that we’re looking at,” Deputy Jamie Barney said. “It’s the big ones.”

The Humboldt County Deputy Sheriff’s Organization launched a public outreach and advertising campaign this week against illegal indoor cannabis grows and is calling on the public to weigh in on potential solutions.

The union’s president, local Deputy Jamie Barney said one option they have been advocating for is for the county to implement an excessive energy use tax similar to what Arcata approved in 2012.

“Why can’t the county do that also?” Barney said. “… We have talked about that in the past. It never seemed to go anywhere. We’re also asking the community if they have other ideas.”

Arcata currently has a 45 percent tax on households that use more than 600 percent of the energy baseline — the energy used to power three average homes. The tax was designed to hit the wallets of illegal indoor cannabis grow operators. Arcata officials told the Times-Standard in January 2014 that the tax appeared to have done its job, reducing the number of homes with excessive energy use from about 630 to 100.

Barney said what spurred him into starting the campaign was the departure of three senior deputies from the department last week. While Barney said Measure Z is making it so the sheriff’s office can hire two deputies specifically for cannabis enforcement, he said that the departure of senior staff changes how quickly law enforcement can address illegal indoor grows.

Barney said retaining deputies is an important issue, but said the focus of the campaign is to figure out what can be done in the meantime as the new deputies are trained.

The passage of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act last year allows residents to grow up to six plants indoors for personal use. Barney said that the campaign is not focused on those home grows, but on those that cause entire neighborhood blocks to smell of cannabis and have large light fixtures or illegal butane extraction equipment that are a fire hazard.

“Six plants is not the problem that we’re looking at,” he said. “It’s the big ones.”

The union is encouraging members of the public to submit their ideas online at humboldtsheriffs.com.

The Humboldt County Deputy Sheriff’s Organization has 138 members consisting of sheriff’s deputies, probation officers, district attorney investigators and welfare fraud investigators, according to Barney.

This story was first published on TheCannifornian.com