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Press Availability on scene at largest illegal marijuana grow in Bay Area history. Contact PIO Sgt. Ray Kelly pic.twitter.com/IVGFtyGhTf— Alameda County Sheriff (@ACSOSheriffs) September 30, 2021

While recreational marijuana use and possession is legal in California, under the state’s law, residents are only allowed to grow up to six plants.

“We had to get innovative and use gas powered trimmers or we would be here for a week,” the post said.

Kelly told Newsweek that Californians also have to be approved to grow marijuana plants by the state and local government.

“These guys are all lying through their teeth,” Pence said.

In February 2018, a consultant for the county, HdL Cos., estimated the county would collect between $15 million and $21 million in taxes annually from the 47 acres licensed to grow at that point. If that acreage expanded, so would the tax stream. That month, Lavagnino urged two of his skeptical colleagues to pass a tax referendum and land-use policy so the county could reap the rewards.

The growers did not have to provide any evidence that they owned or leased the property at the time, much less that they were cultivating cannabis there.

“I’m trying to generate what could be $20 [million] to $40 million a year for the county,” he said.

When the planning department last year recommended a measure that the marijuana farmers should bear all the costs of appeals to their permits filed by neighbors, the cultivators emailed Williams that it was unfair and urged him to reject it. “Don’t worry, I’ll fix it with a 50-50 recovery model. Don’t tell anyone though,” he wrote to grower Mike Palmer.

The state temporary licenses are expiring this year. The county now requires growers to go through its land-use permitting process, which gives neighbors a chance to appeal. (But while that process is underway, temporary license holders, with the county’s consent, can get a state provisional license that allows them to grow for another 12 months.)

When Santa Barbara County supervisors decided to allow unlimited licenses, moneyed interests from all over the state saw an opportunity.