|Photo: Jennifer M. Howell/Lodi News-Sentinel|
|Lodi Police Detective Carlos Fuentes gets to try out his cool HazMat mask and brandish his weapon as he investigates an alleged “meth lab.” It turned out to the the deodorizer used to mask the scene of a legal medical marijuana grow.|
Police in Lodi, California thought they had a major drug bust on their hands after what looked like a couple of pounds of methamphetamine and dozens of marijuana plants were found at a commercial building.
Police even evacuated all of the businesses in the building between Pixley Parkway and Guild Avenue.
But the big bust shrunk away to nothing when the “meth” turned out to be crystallized deodorizer and the pot plants turned out to be legal, reports Jordan Guinn at the Lodi News-Sentinel.
The operation turned out to be the medical marijuana growing site for a Stockton family, police said.
“After the search, we found they are in compliance with their legal marijuana cards, said Detective Hettie Schaeffer of the Lodi Police Department.
About 2 p.m. Tuesday, excited police arrived at the scene, ready with their fancy HazMat team to search the premises.
At first, the cops thought they’d stumbled upon two pounds of meth. But after closer inspection, the Lodi Police Department determined it to be a crystallized deodorizer used to mask the smell of the cannabis plants.
Several fire engines stayed on the scene for almost two hours as officers as Sheriff’s deputies searched the warehouse.
Deputies were on the scene because the police called for more manpower to execute their “major bust,” according to Schaeffer.
“It was a waste of resources for four fire engines,” Schaeffer admitted.
Police were tipped off after getting complaints from businesses in the area who said they could smell marijuana early in the morning. Narcotics officers monitored the location for days prior to the search, happily spending your tax money and their man-hours, and said that for hours at a time nobody was entering or leaving the complex.
Detective Nick Rafiq said he looked at the building’s electrical meter and noticed it was using “six times the electricity” of any other unit in the complex.
After getting a search warrant, officers, fondly imagining themselves as intrepid Drug War heroes, descended on the building Tuesday.
Turns out the unit was rented in April by Darren Dean, and that he and his mother — both of whom are authorized medical marijuana patients — were growing their cannabis at the location.
Dean had told the property owner that he was using the space for storage and painting materials. Ladders, drop cloths and painting supplies were located in the unit, as well as the customized structure for growing marijuana.
The plants are in the flowering stage, and Dean expressed concern they could be damaged from excess sunlight during the search.
“If they would’ve called me I would’ve let them in,” Dean said.
Dean’s mother suffers from glaucoma and lupus, he said, and his medical marijuana card authorizes him to grow for his stomach and back pain.
There are 30 female plants in the room, according to Dean. “We grow for our own use,” he said.
Police, determined to salvage something — anything — from their days of surveillance, their grand raid and their HazMat team, found “a small amount of illegal fireworks” and “minor code enforcement issues” with the grow room, such as some electrical outlets that need to be moved, according to Schaeffer.
Although the event wasn’t the bust police were hoping for, Cpl. Val Chaban claimed the officers don’t regret searching the building.