SALINAS – On August 30, 2019, Arthur Bright Jr., 71, was sentenced for a cannabis cultivation operation discovered at his Carmel Valley Road home in June 2018. Bright was sentence to three years of probation and ordered to serve 90 days jail.
The illegal cultivation was discovered by air by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. A search warrant was executed on the property and three separate grows were located. Bright claimed that he was growing medical marijuana for himself but the amount growing, more than 500 plants, far exceeded the amount allowed.
Additionally, the grow operations were drawing water from a stream via gas generator. The streams flow into the Arroyo Seco, which feeds into the Salinas River. The Salinas River is designated critical habitat for Steelhead. Cannabis plants can require six gallons of water per plant per day and the growing season usually coincides with low water season thus further taxing this limited resource.
Commercial cannabis cultivation is highly regulated, and this includes obtaining permission from the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Board to ensure that the operation will not negatively impact the waters of the State, including ground and surface water. Negative impact may occur from the use of fertilizers, even if organic, or any pesticides as well as having trash and generators to close to the waterway.
Bright had not enrolled his cultivation operation with the Water Quality Board. Permits are also required if someone intends to divert or obstruct the natural flow of water or alter any streambed. Such activity requires a Lake or Streambed Alteration Agreement available through the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Mr. Bright had not obtained such permission.
Even without environmental violations, anyone wishing to grow cannabis must make sure they understand all of the local and state requirements. Monterey County requires those growing more than six plants, even if approved by a physician, to register with the County.
“State and local law enforcement are targeting illegal cannabis grows for several reasons,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “The cultivation must be conducted in a fashion that is safe for the environment. Licensed growers know the rules and regulations which are set up to ensure the cannabis is free of contaminates and contain what the labels say they contain. Also, it protects licensed cultivators from what essentially is an underground market.”