Madera County Sheriff John Anderson sent a team of deputies to North Fork Sept. 3 after receiving a tip about a so-called proposition 215 marijuana garden close to a local church.
The initial tip concerned a group of people who were seen dragging marijuana plants to their vehicle parked along Road 200.
Deputies discovered the pilfered plants had been pulled from a significant marijuana operation located a mere 500 feet from a church.
When deputies arrived on scene, one of the growers fled on foot. Inside two separate plots they found nearly 400 fully budded plants and three recommendation cards.
The garden was not enclosed; making it prime pickings for what it is commonly referred to "Patch Pirates," marijuana thieves.
Sheriff Anderson says the marijuana season is far from over as agents on local, state and even federal levels continue to tackle the growing number of illegal marijuana gardens operating throughout Madera County under proposition 215.
Proposition 215, or the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, allows patients with a valid recommendation to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal medical use.
Anderson said the best intention of Prop 215 (medical need) has given rise to blatant criminal activity ... and in this case, carried out a mere 500 feet from a place of worship.
Marijuana growers have four basic needs, said Anderson. They need water, sunlight, four months to cultivate their crop, and they need seclusion.
"With proposition 215, they no longer need seclusion," Anderson said.
No arrests were made.