Stolen generator leads to rural marijuana lab; 5,000 pounds of pot plants, oil seized

A reported stolen power generator on a trailer led investigators to a sophisticated marijuana laboratory at a rural home about a mile north of the Stanislaus River, prompting authorities to keep people away while potentially hazardous chemicals were removed.

Investigators seized about 5,000 pounds of marijuana plants and about 55 five-gallon buckets of nearly finished concentrated cannabis oil, also known as “honey oil,” found at the illegal lab near Oakdale, said Stanislaus County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Josh Clayton.

The oil — a form of purified marijuana — is extracted from the plants. Clayton said the finished product is used in vape pens and marijuana edibles.

Nine people found at the Lon Dale Road home were detained and questioned, but none of them was arrested, Clayton said Friday. He said narcotics detectives were continuing their investigation into the lab discovery.

The investigation began when the Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force received information that a stolen 100-kilowatt generator/trailer combo was at a home in the 6000 block of Lon Dale, just south of Highway 120 and west of Cleveland Avenue.

Roseville trailer theft

The trailer/generator combo was reported stolen to the Roseville Police Department, task force officials said on its Facebook page Thursday evening.

The task force obtained a search warrant for the home to recover the stolen trailer. The task force called for Stanislaus County sheriff’s property crimes detectives to help secure the property.

While searching the home, investigators reported finding the concentrated cannabis manufacturing and processing lab. The task force then called for investigators with the Stanislaus County Drug Enforcement Agency.

Health hazards

After investigators discover an illegal drug lab, they typically leave immediately and call for specialists trained in the disposal of these potentially hazardous materials, Clayton said. Aside from the health hazards, the chemicals used could be explosive, he said, so authorities don’t want to take any chances.

Lab 1.jpg
Authorities from Stanislaus County at the scene of the marijuana processing lab on Thursday April 25, 2019, in the 6200 block of Lon Dale Road near Oakdale, California. Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District

On Thursday afternoon, they worked together to properly remove potentially hazardous chemicals found at the home, he said.

Firefighters from the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District were at the scene. On the agency’s Facebook page, fire officials asked drivers and residents to stay away from what was considered a hazardous materials incident.

Authorities about 2 p.m. Thursday had closed nearby Frontage Road at Cleveland Avenue. The Modesto Fire Department and the Escalon Fire Department also were at the scene Thursday assisting with the cleanup.

The narcotics investigators disposed of the lab safely, according to task force officials.

The auto theft investigators returned the generator/trailer to its owner, and they were continuing to follow up on the auto theft portion of this investigation.

Rosalio Ahumada writes news stories about criminal court cases in Stanislaus County for The Modesto Bee, issues related to immigration and immigrant communities and breaking news related to crime and public safety. From time to time, he covers the Modesto City Council meetings. He has worked as a news reporter in the Northern San Joaquin Valley since 2004.