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Police bust Palo Alto marijuana grow house

Original post made on Aug 21, 2022

Palo Alto police uncovered a marijuana-growing operation in a Crescent Park home on Aug. 10 while investigating a noise complaint, Sgt. David Lee said.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, August 20, 2022, 4:54 PM

Comments (42)

Posted by Eric
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 21, 2022 at 3:06 am

Eric is a registered user.

I don’t understand. Is the position of the police department that this is a commercial level grow operation and therefore subject to prosecution? If so, why is the city unwilling or unable to charge the people involved? It seems like the list of things police aren’t willing to be involved with is sadly increasing.


Posted by Gary Belkin
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 21, 2022 at 7:56 am

Gary Belkin is a registered user.

The number of plants found at the residence is the the issue.

There is a legal limit as to how many plants a person can grow for 'personal use'. Anything over that limit is presumed to be for sale and illegal.


Posted by Chelsea Hammond
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 21, 2022 at 8:52 am

Chelsea Hammond is a registered user.

If a search warrant was issued, a judge had to approve it which means the operation was considered excessive and illegal.

It is one thing to have a few marijuana plants for personal use and another to be operating an indoor plantation.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2022 at 12:41 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Was there anyone actually living in the house as well as the planting operation?

If the plants and the equipment was all moved out, why was the house red tagged?

If it is red tagged, does that mean it has to be demolished?

Since there is one house, does that mean there could be more of these around town?

Lastly, I can't help be wonder what noise would have warranted a noise complaint? We live in a very noisy area with construction noise, vehicle noise, plane and helicopter noise, and even Shoreline concert noise. I would like to understand what it was about this noise that made it suspicious or caused someone to report it.


Posted by Tyler Mann
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 21, 2022 at 12:54 pm

Tyler Mann is a registered user.

Marijuana is being grown everywhere...outdoors, in cellars, warehouses, bedrooms, garages, and tool sheds.

It is the only plant that has $20.00 bills hanging off its branches and marijuana cultivation is very lucrative for those so inclined.

They key is not to get caught overdoing it.


Posted by Jeff Z
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2022 at 1:09 pm

Jeff Z is a registered user.

I would speculate this house was similar to the rental home across the street from my house in SJ, about 10 years ago.
Renters used fake ID to rent the home. They built boxes over the windows with lights on timers, so light could be seen through the curtains regularly. It was a five bedroom 2-story house with every room except the dining room growing plants. They cut holes in the walls and ceilings to run duct work to vent to the attic, to dissipate the smell. They had tapped into the neighbors house for power. (how they were caught). The house needed major renovations before it was able to be rented again.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 21, 2022 at 1:40 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

It sounds like the house is not being lived in but used as a growing location. First you have the smell of the growing plants. Then you have the problem of gang activity who are competing for the plants = a broken window. Once another competing group finds out then they will work to get in and take the plants. This is putting the other residents in a very risky situation.

People in that nieghborhood - all PA nieghborhoods are paying property taxes in large amounts and desrve protection - they have some rights in this case.
This needs to be followed as to outcome because it repersents a continuing degradation of taxpayer rights. If this was in a commercial location then the story could be different.


Posted by Grant Thompson
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 21, 2022 at 2:38 pm

Grant Thompson is a registered user.

The DA will have to prove possession (done) along with the intent to distribute and sell a large quantity of marijuana...difficult to establish and/or prove if the grower was cultivating and also 'donating' a sizable portion of the harvest to various 'not-for-profit' medical marijuana facilities.

If the plants were part an illicit 'for profit' gang related enterprise, then the DA has a much stronger case but it will have to be proven.

The beauty of the American criminal justice system (unlike other more repressive countries) is the that the burden of proof is always on the prosecution.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Aug 21, 2022 at 4:32 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

What kind of noise was observed? Was it the sound of a chainsaw, harvesting weed with trunks so thick, a set of pruning shears weren't enough? And what, pray tell, was "visible" at nearly 1:00 in the morning? From the outside I can see lots of weeds in the yard. Is that a "sign" that weeds are growing inside as well?

Maybe they should get warrants for all of PA's "ghost houses". I'm not convinced the warrant was justified but if I could have listened in to the scanner chatter, maybe I would be better informed. And "red tagging" it seems a bit excessive. If it's a rental, there should be a responsible owner willing to fix the defects the police have uncovered. "Personal use" is a subjective term. Some people smoke a LOT of that stuff. Could be totally legit.

I drove past a cannabis farm last weekend. There was a billboard for it and they had a store right next to the farm. You could smell skunk 5 miles coming and going from it. I'm surprised none of the neighbors complained about the smell, instead of the noise. The noise of what? Do grow lights emit a "Taos Hum" like sound that only space aliens can hear?


Posted by Sue Dremann
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Aug 21, 2022 at 8:27 pm

Sue Dremann is a registered user.

The house was red tagged because the plumbing, electrical work, gas and other infrastructure were altered and created a dangerous situation, as the story noted. The house would probably require repairs as opposed to demolition to bring it up to code but it can't be inhabited until then. We don't yet know the extent of the damage, however.

Police are releasing very little information at this time since the case is still under investigation. Consequently, we don't know if they have anyone in mind for a potential arrest.

This story will likely have more parts to it at a later time.


Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 21, 2022 at 8:45 pm

JR is a registered user.

If plumbing, electrical, and other infrastructure was modified to support a massive illegal drug growing operation then you can bet we will hear more about it soon. There is no safe space in Palo Alto for the manufacture, sale and abuse of illegal schedule 1 drugs.


Posted by Samuel L
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 21, 2022 at 10:31 pm

Samuel L is a registered user.

Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug - that's the bigger issue:

Web Link

Web Link


Posted by Todd Carter
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 22, 2022 at 8:01 am

Todd Carter is a registered user.

It is very tricky and potentially dangerous to have a large-scale growing operation inside a residency.

Subterfuge is critical and in older homes the AC wiring might not be adequate to support and sustain the required electricity which might result in a potential fire hazard.

Outdoors is preferable for those who prefer a more natural and organic growing environment.

Undeveloped 'ghost' properties in rural areas provide an ideal setting where in some instances, an absentee owner will allow growers to cultivate on his/her land as 'sharecroppers'.

In this scenario, the primary challenge (other than detection and possible theft of the crop) is procuring adequate amounts of water and it helps to be within close proximity of a lake where H2O can be illegally diverted via clandestine trenching for irrigation purposes. This is where outdoor growers often get caught as drought conditions and lake levels are being strictly monitored these days.

Lastly...after a successful harvest and initial drying, a large building (or barn) equipped with exhaust fans is needed for curing the marijuana. The trick here is for the building to go undetected, both visually and from the aroma emanating from the curing process.

Growing high quality marijuana is an agronomical art (like viticulture and enology) and can be very time consuming.

It would be nice if Palo Alto offered a community organic garden where residents could grow pot for personal and family use...then it could be done legally rather than in red-tagged grow houses with questionable AC.

And while potential thefts of outdoor marijuana plants in a community garden would pose an ongoing problem, this could easily be curtailed by restrictive fences and surveillance cameras with occasional PAPD security patrols and/or volunteer watchdogs to keep an eye on things.


Posted by Taylor Parkins
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 22, 2022 at 11:35 am

Taylor Parkins is a registered user.

Marijuana has been decriminalized to the point where it is pointless to confiscate crops or prosecute the growers.

States rights have overshadowed existing federal laws pertaining to marijuana and subsequently, whatever the DEA has to say or do about pot is immaterial regardless of any Schedule I designation.

The PAPD should focus more on issuing traffic citations and going after looters.


Posted by Taylor Parkins
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 22, 2022 at 11:53 am

Taylor Parkins is a registered user.

@Todd Carter

Good insights. We own some property in Lake County and there are many growers operating on private land and who are involved in such undertakings around Clear Lake where the dwindling water supply is still accessable providing one is within reasonable proximity of the lake itself.

The share cropping concept makes complete sense from the standpoint of risk management and with the current drought, why not put some of the remaining water to good 'agricultural' usage?

The only problem is that one frequently encounters a number of shady types (ex-cons, bail jumpers, outstanding bench warrants etc.) in that region and some of them are also operating meth labs which makes trespassing even more dangerous as most of the chem lab proprietors are also armed and dangerous.

Life is a jungle wherever one goes...even in Palo Alto.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 22, 2022 at 12:11 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

I really don't understand the economics. How does such a small operation compete with big commercial growers who enjoy economy of scale? The only explanation I can think of is that these operations are underground and do not pay taxes.


Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 22, 2022 at 12:36 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

Is this what is a “ghost house”. This does this type of illegal business take away from our unaffordable rental market? Obviously growing weed is easier than growing rental homes for families. This and the Air B B market .


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2022 at 1:01 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Any updates on this event? Thank you


Posted by Katie Lange
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2022 at 1:37 pm

Katie Lange is a registered user.

"How does such a small operation compete with big commercial growers who enjoy economy of scale?"

^ Boutique growers...similar to a successful microbrewery VS Budweiser.

Or like Chateau Lafite VS Gallo.

Big difference.

Large commercial growers deal in volume for the masses while most boutique growers are creating and cultivating esoteric strains that only true marijuana connoisseurs can appreciate and are willing to pay more for.

Some are competition growers who submit these new strains to the Cannabis Cup competition in Amsterdam for international recognition.

Their efforts become profitable when the 'big growers' strive to buy their seeds and cuttings for general distribution based on the awards and strain recognition.

Growing fine marijuana is an art form, no different than cultivating exclusive orchids and roses.


Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 22, 2022 at 2:03 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

@anonymous Much easier to supply SFH houses for drugs and crime than solve for wage canyons and affordable housing for all. It’s called disparity . Easier to throw people in jail and red tag than solve for X .


Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 22, 2022 at 2:17 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

I too have a couple questions/observations:

1. Per above, what exactly was the "noise"? If a noise complaint was used as pretext for obtaining the search warrant, then all of the findings made as a result of the search warrant may have to be excluded. The police did not list smell as a factor justifying probable cause needed to obtain a warrant, but rather claimed that, in the process of investigating a noise at 12.42 am in the pitch dark, somehow the officers were able to "see that the interior of the home was being used to cultivate marijuana." The photos reveal a home with shades completely closed, and it seems highly unlikely that the users of the house would have left plants or growing materials in plain view of the front door.

So exactly how were the officers able to see marijuana cultivating equipment and plants in plain view inside the home (as is required without a warrant) in order to justify the issuance of the warrant? IIRC, things found AFTER the issuance of a warrant cannot be used to justify the issuance of the warrant. This strikes me as a potentially legally tenuous basis of entering a person's home, regardless of what was ultimately found.

2. Has the City taken *any* steps to identify unoccupied/ghost homes in Palo Alto, as well as homes of billionaires and corporate executives that are being used for commercial rather than residential purposes (e,g. the home on Bryant owned by Larry Page or one of his entities, that caught fire last year, that was said to have been used by Page as office space for Google (or other company) workers - did anything ever come of that?).

Other cities have enacted vacancy taxes to mitigate the harm done by ghost homes, including: (1) increasing crime rates by decreasing density; (2) increasing rent prices by decreasing supply; and (3) reducing the housing stock, which in turn prevents its consideration for the housing element, which could reduce our mandatory housing minimum by its inclusion.

We should do that too.


Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 22, 2022 at 2:51 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

@Rebecca. I agree. Good to hear from you. I hope you’ve gotten some R&R this summer. Yes. My teenager encountered two crimes in action yesterday, Sunday. One. At 10:30am. When a ski masked man literally almost knocked him down running with his flash mob stolen iphones to get away car outside Apple Store on University. The security guard was videoing the robbery getaway as stood by not intervening . Two. At 5:30, Boarding train back to PA in Menlo where a car shooting had taken place in MP train station, lot 10 minutes earlier. WTEff!? PA city is in crisis management mode. Arrests, Incarcerations, Courts, more jail time, more petty thefts, robberies, assaults. Wow!!! So jails are going to solve the unaffordable wage & housing crisis!! Ghost houses used for illegal white color or green weed grow crime? My child said cars drive down university and where passengers throw fire crackers at pedestrians, adults beat up kids, drug addicts rob the elderly and teens of phones and necklaces. All in PA folks! Grenades are serenaded at Hoover park “fire in the hole”! Yes we have a metaphoric fire in the housing wage hole. Solve for Y ! Not For No. Solve for now not when! PS my kid said security at Apple mainly clears the unhoused from front of store and is not armed Than the Lord. Yet the Real Real now has fully armed security with weapons who stand outside door. Thank you. I won’t be shopping for my upscale thrift threads from the Unreal Real Real dangerous store.


Posted by CEQA Required
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2022 at 2:59 pm

CEQA Required is a registered user.

According to the City’s code enforcement map, the address is 1471 Arcadia Place. I find it really odd that every year of Google Street View images jumps past this house with no image of that house. Did one of more of the perps work at Google?


Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 22, 2022 at 3:53 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

@Ceqa required. Is Google needing black market cash to pay for Alphabet? What was the cash crop worth ? Affordable housing badly needed not more weed. Although maybe weed is self medicating the pain that has been caused by unaffordability factor in wage and housing disparity.


Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2022 at 6:18 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

You can remove your house(s) from Google street view. You don't have to be a Google employee. It's done for privacy, and most people who remove their house aren't selling or manufacturing drugs.


Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 22, 2022 at 7:19 pm

JR is a registered user.

I applaud the PAPD for their diligence in this case. Maybe next time criminals will think twice about setting up a drug operation in this city. Palo Alto is not a safe space for drug lords.


Posted by CEQA Required
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2022 at 8:00 am

CEQA Required is a registered user.

@Jennifer

When people request Google to remove their house, they just blur it out. This house is skipped entirely every single year. The street view jumps unusually far each time. That’s why I mentioned it. That just seems odd after having used Street View for over 15 years now.


Posted by Biff Langely
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 23, 2022 at 8:36 am

Biff Langely is a registered user.

"The police did not list smell as a factor justifying probable cause needed to obtain a warrant, but rather claimed that, in the process of investigating a noise at 12.42 am in the pitch dark somehow the officers were able to "see that the interior of the home was being used to cultivate marijuana....how were the officers able to see marijuana cultivating equipment and plants in plain view inside the home (as is required without a warrant) in order to justify the issuance of the warrant?"

^ Maybe the windows weren't completely sealed off as LED grow lights can emit very strong (and highly visible) beams of illumination.

Grow lights are also on timers to simulate seasonal sunlight. Marijuana plants are photosensitive and begin to bloom when natural sunlight (or artificial light) is reduced...thus indoor crops can easily be an all-year endeavor simply by adding new plants and controlling the interior lighting.


Posted by William Streeter
a resident of Woodside
on Aug 23, 2022 at 9:48 am

William Streeter is a registered user.

"Large commercial growers deal in volume for the masses while most boutique growers are creating and cultivating esoteric strains that only true marijuana connoisseurs can appreciate and are willing to pay more for."

The legalized commercial marijuana dispensaries are for the common man.

Celebrity marijuana connoisseurs like Willie Nelson, Snoop Dog, and Brad Pitt, have other sources and contacts.

@JR...marijuana is no more a 'drug' than coffee/tea, refined sugar, and a number of 'over the counter' pharmaceuticals.



Posted by Rand Bacon
a resident of Portola Valley
on Aug 23, 2022 at 11:35 am

Rand Bacon is a registered user.

Cultivating marijuana is a very time consuming endeavor and serious growers develop a close connection with their plants, perhaps more so than grape growers and wheat farmers.

Friends in Boulder Creek/Felton claim that despite the risks, marijuana cultivation beats having to go to work everyday at some flunkee and meaningless job.

I'd have to agree having grown some exquisite pot while living outside of Boulder, CO.

The key is not to get or be greedy by overextending oneself.


Posted by Chet Walker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 23, 2022 at 4:47 pm

Chet Walker is a registered user.

Done properly, cultivating outdoor marijuana can be one of the most enjoyable, fascinating, and educational gardening endeavors.

You can learn all about soil properties, different types of fertilizers, pest control, irrigation techniques, pruning, plant gender identification, harvesting, and proper curing and storage.

It beats growing zucchini.


Posted by community member
a resident of University South
on Aug 23, 2022 at 4:49 pm

community member is a registered user.

On Google the owners of that address are given as
Wen Jang and Jeng Bee Fen Hwang (trustee)


Posted by Hal Roberts
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 24, 2022 at 8:10 am

Hal Roberts is a registered user.

A landlord/owner is technically (aka legally) responsible for anything that transpires on their property.

The question remains...were the listed owners unaware of what was going on at this vacant/ghost residency or were they an active part of the grow operation?

As per federal drug laws, property (i.e. residencies, cars, boats etc.) can be confiscated by the government if associated with an illicit drug operation.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 24, 2022 at 1:45 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Some people seem to be trying to protect the situation. Because they are growing their own plants? Some plants outside I think are legally possible, but taking a house and creating a grow house in a R-1 zoned neighborhood is out of the question. This situation creates a potential problem for the neighbors - the law of unintended consequences. Allowing this in that neighborhood is an invitation to a breakdown in city planning and protection which is now a major topis.
How "progressive" you are is irrelevlent to that which makes a potntial prblem for the whle neighborhood. If I lived there I would have the police and FBI there. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Gerri Ulrich
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 24, 2022 at 4:07 pm

Gerri Ulrich is a registered user.

"Some people seem to be trying to protect the situation. Because they are growing their own plants? Some plants outside I think are legally possible,"

It is legal to grow up to 12 plants (per adult person) for personal use whether for recreational or medical usage.

In an adult shared living environment (eg. with four adult housemates), do the math. A well-grown pot plant can yield anywhere from 1-2 pounds of prime 'colitas' (female marijuana buds) and a 75-90 pound harvest is a bountiful one indeed, far more than any die hard pot smoker could smoke in a year and besides, a fresh new crop is always on its way (especially if grown indoors where it is not uncommon to successfully grow three crops in a year).

Marijuana is a cash cow and a black market environment will always thrive because unlike conventional pot dispensaries, the prices are better, there is no sales tax or IDs required and the quality is oftentimes better depending on the expertise of the grower.

The key is to limit the amount one has in possession as over a certain limit, an intent to sell is always presumed by law enforcement.


Posted by Claire Bichette
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 25, 2022 at 7:47 am

Claire Bichette is a registered user.

> Some plants outside I think are legally possible, but taking a house and creating a grow house in a R-1 zoned neighborhood is out of the question.

@Resident-1 Adobe Meadows

An indoor 'grow house' and an indoor 'grow room' are two different things.

As long as the AC wiring is up to current code and the draw does not exceed the available current, the threat of a fire is minimal as LED grow lights draw less electricity and run considerably cooler than the traditional quartz halogen lighting systems used in the past.

Some people opt for an indoor growing environment to prevent the theft of their plants or reside in an apartment/condo without an outdoor backyard.


Posted by Bruce Willoughby
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 25, 2022 at 10:11 am

Bruce Willoughby is a registered user.

"Some plants outside I think are legally possible,"

^ Yes to the above but subterfuge is critical to prevent detection by outsiders who may have access to ones backyard (i.e. gardeners, handypetsons, meter readers etc.).

Growing marijuana in between tall vegetables plants like pole beans and corn helps.


Posted by Please Don't
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 25, 2022 at 2:09 pm

Please Don't is a registered user.

I'm running a six light grow in my ADU. I know of maybe five or six other people in PA that are doing the same. One of them lives in an apartment.


Posted by The Green Machine
a resident of Woodside
on Aug 25, 2022 at 4:49 pm

The Green Machine is a registered user.

@Please Don't...
Ever since we stopped tending horses, our rewired vacant stable has provided an optimum growing environment for indoor cultivation and our old tool shed (with exhaust fans mounted to a wall) serves as our curing station.

It is very important to draw moisture away from the buds during the curing process and a backwards mounted fan does exactly that...this is critical to ensure 'pro' quality buds.

Fortunately we are on several acres of private property and so the bouquet from the drying/curing process goes unoticed.

You can also grow 'magic mushrooms' in a darker section of a barn.


Posted by James Clarke (USMC ret.)
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 26, 2022 at 8:27 am

James Clarke (USMC ret.) is a registered user.

Marijuana has come a long ways since the hippie era of the 1960s.

Prior to the Viet Nam War, most of the marijuana smoked in America came in nondescript kilo bricks of sun dried brown pot smuggled in from Mexico.

The Vietnamese introduced American GIs to sensimilla (high potency green seedless buds) in the form of Thai sticks and this superior type of pot was then smuggled into the United States in bodybags via military transports.

As there will always be a few random seeds in any batch of 'seedless' sensimilla, this in turn gave rise to an entirely new practice of cultivating and cross-breeding marijuana for maximum potency.

Marijuana must be cross-bred over several generations to ensure and maintain its potency...otherwise it becomes hemp, a durable industrial fiber used for rope and fabric.

Wild hemp grows all over in the rural areas of Kentucky and Indiana but it is not smokable unless one is actively seeking a headache.

Modern day marijuana cultivation is both an art and a science...like winemaking.


Posted by Lyle Chandler
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 26, 2022 at 1:48 pm

Lyle Chandler is a registered user.

Growing pot has always been a part of our seasonal vegetable garden.

"It is very important to draw moisture away from the buds during the curing process and a backwards mounted fan does exactly that...this is critical to ensure 'pro' quality buds."

^ Green Machine...this is so true as achieving a good cure is often as challenging as growing the crop itself.

A closet is too small and if one were to install exhaust fans in the garage, the entire neighborhood would notice due to the emanating bouquet.

I am thinking of doing this in our cellar as we have a split level home.




Posted by Lindsey Harker
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 5, 2022 at 11:21 am

Lindsey Harker is a registered user.

As long as the growing environment was not posing a direct endangerment to adjacent residents, there was no legitimate reason for police intervention.

Also of note...no search warrant signed-off by a judge making this a direct violation of the 4th Amendment.


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