Crime

Modesto police bust a pot lab like none found here before

Investigators found a sophisticated marijuana extraction lab with an extraction device over 9 feet tall at a Modesto residence Wednesday.
Investigators found a sophisticated marijuana extraction lab with an extraction device over 9 feet tall at a Modesto residence Wednesday. Modesto Police Department

Following up on an anonymous tip, officers of the Modesto Narcotics Enforcement Team busted an expensive and hazardous type of drug lab not found in the city before. Three people were arrested, and two children were found to be living at the residence.

MNET investigators Wednesday went to a residence in the 1800 block of Fairfax Avenue, off Rose Avenue just north of Briggsmore. There they found a sophisticated marijuana extraction lab, with a device more than 9 feet tall used to extract THC, the psychoactive substance in pot, Modesto police spokeswoman Heather Graves said in a news release Friday.

“The suspects were actually trying to strip the chemical known as ‘CBD’ from the plants, another element of marijuana,” Graves said. “CBD marijuana is currently being researched by GW Pharmaceuticals for possible relief for seizures and other neurological disorders.”

The lab found at the residence is believed to be the first of its kind in California, Graves said. It is a cold conversion lab estimated to have cost more than $25,000 for the equipment alone. The system operates under compressed air and uses liquid butane to strip the THC and CBD from the marijuana, the news release said.

Also in the residence, agents found two handguns, as well as 184 pounds of processed marijuana in garbage bags on the garage floor. Also in the garage were more than 250 cans of butane. A Sacramento-based company was called in to disassemble the lab.

Two children living at the residence were in a dangerous situation, Graves said, because such labs are extremely susceptible to explosion.

Jeremy Ferguson, 29, was arrested on suspicion of manufacturing a controlled substance and possession of marijuana for sale.

Wilson Vazquez, 27, was arrested on suspicion of manufacturing a controlled substance, possession of marijuana for sale, felony child endangerment and possession of a loaded firearm.

Natalie Dearma, 28, was arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment.

Graves called the extraction device a “pot rocket” capable of causing serious injury and damage to the house because the operators were using a large amount of butane in a garage that had an open flame coming from the hot water heater.

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