Use of Banned Chemicals and Illegal Activity Posed Public Safety Threat
In November 2020, Alejandro Barbosa Mejia and Cristo Sanchez Suarez pled guilty in Monterey County for an illegal cannabis operation and other crimes in the Big Sur region of the Los Padres National Forest.
The grow was eradicated by wildlife officers in July 2020 with assistance from the U.S. Forest Service and National Guard Counterdrug Program. Cannabis cultivation is never allowed on public lands. The public can report illegal cannabis grows to the CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258 or by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411(tip411).
Charges for Mejia and Suarez included illegal cultivation, assault with a deadly weapon, resisting arrest, illegal water diversions, illegal use of a banned pesticide and substantially causing environmental harm to public land.
Both are being held in county jail and formal sentencing is scheduled for early 2021.
“I’m deeply proud of the work our wildlife officers and allied partners accomplished in this investigation,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “Big Sur is home to numerous native plants, fish and wildlife species, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Protecting these resources is at the heart of our mission and something we take immense pride in.”
The illegal cannabis grow complex was discovered within one mile off Highway 1 north of Ragged Point in Big Sur. The area is known for seaside hiking trails and offers breathtaking glimpses of the area’s coastal mountains and shoreline. Condors, sea otters, mountain lions, deer, owls and other scenic wildlife also call this region home.
During the mission, officers eradicated over 6,500 illegal cannabis plants, confiscated over 3,500 lbs. of process cannabis and removed two 16-ounce bottles of carbofuran, a federally banned pesticide. Just a teaspoon of which can kill a 600 lb. bear.
Carbofuran and other chemicals found at the grow complex can have a lasting presence in the soil and bleed into local waterways for years to come, wreaking havoc on the surrounding environment. A cleanup of the site’s infrastructure will be conducted in the following months when air and land resources are available.
Learn more about illegal cannabis grows on county, state and federal property.