Hundreds of pot plants seized
Drug agents plucked between $500,000 and $2.3 million in marijuana plants from the earth of an isolated canyon in east Carson City on Thursday.
An estimated 454 plants of sinsemilla, some as tall as 6 feet and valued between $1,000 and $5,000 apiece, were the result of the sophisticated growing operation on federal land in Sand Canyon.
The operation included an irrigation drip system fed by water from a treatment pond nearby and the application of doses of Miracle-Gro fertilizer, apparent from several empty containers lying about.
The find came after a hiker reported the discovery of one plant to the Carson City Sheriff’s Department, said Detective Bill Abbott.
“We thought that was all we had,” said Abbott. “Then we came up here and saw this.”
The lush, green plants – their distinctive odor permeating the air – were each encircled by netting and lined a creek from the treatment pond for about a half mile. Authorities spent five hours Thursday morning counting and uprooting each plant.
A Washoe County Sheriff’s Department helicopter flew the bundles of marijuana out of the canyon.
Investigators cased the spot over the course of a month and watched as Leobardo Martinez-Rojas, 30, returned time and again, sometimes with others and sometimes armed with a rifle, to tend to the “garden,” said Lt. Scott Jackson.
Martinez-Rojas, also known as Antonio Nova, was arrested Wednesday morning on suspicion of felony possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of marijuana, and probation violation. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services placed a hold on him for allegedly being in the country illegally.
Jackson said Martinez-Rojas has been arrested several times on drug charges including possession of methamphetamine and cocaine.
Other arrests are anticipated, he said.
But, Jackson noted, no charges will be brought against anyone for the actual growing operation.
“It’s not illegal in the state of Nevada to grow marijuana,” he said. “In 1999 the Legislature inadvertently took the cultivation statute out of the books because it was combined with manufacturing other drugs including methamphetamine. They wanted to make a more specific statute dealing with clandestine laboratories. In the process of doing that, they basically overlooked that Nevada no longer has a cultivation statute that is enforceable.
“Legislators need to address that oversight. It needs to be fixed.”
The Tri-Net Task Force comprises investigators from the sheriff’s departments of Douglas County, Carson City, Lyon County, Storey County and investigators from the Nevada Division of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Contact F.T. Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1213.