SFPD Scores Pot-Bust Hat Trick

Third raid in a week culls 1,000 plants and weapons

By Jackson West
|  Friday, Jul 31, 2009  |  Updated 12:30 PM PDT
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SFPD Scores Pot-Bust Hat Trick

Ned Raggett

With pot and prostitution busts aplenty, San Francisco's seemingly quiet Sunset neighborhood may have a claim on the title of Barbary Coast.

Three marijuana grow operations have been busted in as many days in San Francisco's western Sunset neighborhood this week.

The latest raid on Wednesday netted 1,000 plants, as well as an assault rifle, handguns and ammunition.

Usually the smell tips off neighbors, or inflated utility bills give away the operation, but this time officers obtained their warrant based on information from an earlier bust.

California's marijuana crop overall is likely to be a record-breaker, but largely thanks to illegal growing operations in wilderness areas -- even those just outside the suburbs, like a recent bust in Santa Clara County.

Yet the Sunset, a quiet residential neighborhood, is becoming known as a center for local indoor production -- where high-tech farmers use artificial sunlight and nutrient-rich water to grow up to three crops a year hydroponically.

And that kind of green thumb can turn the crop into lots of cash. "That's tax-free money," Lieutenant Mike Kaplan of the Taraval Station told the San Francisco Weekly.

At least for now -- Oakland is set to start taxing the sale of medical marijuana, and State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is working on a bill to possibly decriminalize and tax the wider trade of the weed, in part to help solve the state's other bumper crop: A growing deficit.

Photo by Ned Raggett.

Jackson West would much rather see a ban on assault weapons, which seem far more dangerous.

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