Pot garden - target of robbery Thursday - illegal, police say - Morgan Hill Times: Crime Fire Courts

Pot garden - target of robbery Thursday - illegal, police say

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Posted: Monday, September 17, 2012 6:42 pm

Three men who called police for assistance after they were assaulted at gunpoint and their marijuana garden was robbed, might find themselves being prosecuted for illegally growing pot on a rural north Morgan Hill property, authorities said.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office is still looking for the suspects who tried to rob the three marijuana growers of their crop, and the district attorney’s office will decide whether or not to charge the victims with illegal cultivation, Sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Cardoza said.

“They were out of compliance with the state medicinal marijuana laws,” Cardoza said. “Detectives don’t want to specify” how they were non-compliant, because the incident is still under investigation.

The victims have not yet been arrested or cited for growing about 120 pot plants near the intersection of Hale and Live Oak avenues in northwest Morgan Hill, but authorities could end up issuing warrants for their arrest if the district attorney decides to prosecute after reviewing the case, Cardoza added.

Meanwhile, authorities have not arrested or identified the men who allegedly robbed the growers at gunpoint and tied them up, Cardoza said.

The county’s Marijuana Eradication Team was busy confiscating and removing the plants Thursday afternoon, several hours after the growers reported a violent robbery at the marijuana garden.

The robbery victims told investigators about 7:15 a.m. Thursday that four to six Hispanic men – between the ages of 22 and 45 – in dark clothing entered the backyard of the property on the 10700 block of Hale Avenue in unincorporated Morgan Hill. The suspects were extracting some of the bushy marijuana plants from the garden, which sat toward the back of the property surrounded by an 8-foot-high fence made of plywood.

When two of the victims approached the suspects, the suspects brandished handguns, and then tied up the two men, Cardoza said. A third man, an associate of the two tied-up victims, then arrived at the property, causing the suspects to flee southbound on Hale Avenue toward the city limits.

None of the victims suffered injuries, Cardoza said.

The suspects were driving three separate vehicles – a 2000s light colored Toyota Sequoia, a 2000s brown Chevrolet Suburban and a black Volvo sedan with tinted windows and black rims, Cardoza said.

California Proposition 215, approved by voters in 1996, allows residents with certain chronic medical ailments to acquire permits to use, possess and grow a specified amount of marijuana for their personal use, or for the use of their patients depending on what type of license they have.

The state law allows individual permit holders to grow up to 12 immature or six mature marijuana plants, according to the California NORML website. They can also be in possession of up to a half-pound of processed marijuana at a time.

Furthermore, patients with a doctor’s recommendation and their “primary caregivers” may collectively grow more than a dozen plants in one place at a time, though gardens with more than 100 plants risk “five-year mandatory minimum sentences” under federal law, according to NORML.

Local jurisdictions can pass their own ordinances adding onto the state law, but Cardoza said deputies in Santa Clara County “don’t enforce” the local laws because they only deal with minor offenses such as misdemeanors or infractions.

“The Marijuana Eradication Team always enforces the state statutes because there are different penalties,” Cardoza said.

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