|Santa Barbara County, California|
The problem is that some pot farmers don't want to sell their product legally, since they can make far more money selling it in states where marijuana is still illegal. These illegal growers sometimes steal equipment from local farmers who don't even necessarily grow marijuana themselves.
"As more of the high-dollar crop is planted in 2018, more opportunities will exist for thieves looking to make a quick buck, sheriff’s officials said," Mike Hodgson reports for the Lompoc Record, citing the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.
Legal cannabis growers sometimes get their plants stolen, Senior Deputy John McCarthy said. Their money is at risk, too. Because marijuana is illegal at the federal level, most banks won't allow growers, processors and dispensaries to open accounts. About 75 percent of medical marijuana operations don't have bank accounts, which means they're dealing mostly in cash.
McCarthy, who has worked on rural crime for nearly 20 years, told Hodgson he investigates between 100 and 160 rural crimes a year in his county. "The most common crime McCarthy deals with is the theft of equipment — water pumps, irrigation lines, tractors and, more recently, tractor batteries." "We’ll see an increase in the theft of chemicals and drip irrigation lines at the start of the marijuana season,” McCarthy told Hodgson. "That will be taken out into the backcountry for the illicit grows."
Hodgson reports,"Khurshid Khoja, general counsel of the California Cannabis Industry Association, recently related how a dispensary testing agent was attacked inside his lab by a man armed with a hammer. Another man involved in a cannabis operation was kidnapped and driven out into the desert, where he was tortured to force him to give up the location of his money." And beyond stolen equipment and robbery, illegal grow operations can bring with them the problems usually seen when dealing with drug cartels, including kidnapping and murder.