By Mark Gutglueck
Following the investment of approaching $8 million and more than 10,000 man-hours of effort by members of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s department over the last 17 months, there are unmistakable signs that a corner has been turned on the effort to eradicate the bootleg marijuana cultivation activity that had proliferated in many of the vast outreaches of 20,105-square mile San Bernardino County since 2017.
A milestone in that effort was reached in March, when a division of the sheriff’s department’s task force unexpectedly came upon a vast subterranean “industrial-sized” farm in the remote desert community of Newberry Springs, one with ties, the Sentinel is told by reliable sources, to an international tong which has sponsored the erection of literally hundreds of other greenhouses in the desert in the past five years. The takedown of that operation sent a signal, one louder and clearer than any delivered before, to the decision-makers of a primary network heavily involved in the illicit production of marijuana in Southern California. In the aftermath of the serendipitous March operation, the Sentinel is informed, a decision was made by higher-ups in the organization that the time is propitious to withdraw from San Bernardino County.
In December 2000, then-San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon, for both defensible and dubious reasons, committed to a New Year’s resolution in which he had his department embark on a series of raids against illicit marijuana cultivation operations around the county, virtually all of which were in remote areas, primarily in the desert with a handful in the mountain communities or in the rural gaps between the county’s cities and urbanized areas. Most of those raids were in unincorporated county areas generally off the beaten track, on property where the operators calculated there would be little attention toward or interference with their activities.
Those activities were an outgrowth of California voters’ November 2016 passage of Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which made the use of marijuana for intoxicative purposes legal in the state and reduced the cultivation of the plant, even in massive quantities, from a felony to at worst a misdemeanor. While a host of regulations relating to the cultivation and commercial availability of the drug were applicable, including the delegation to local jurisdictions of the permissibility of growing it, marketing it for wholesale or retail availability, the refining of it, the alteration of it into various products, the warehousing of it and its derivatives along with the transportation and distribution of it, there was a wide perception within the general population that trafficking in the drug was now essentially legal. Some individuals and enterprises sought to raise marijuana crops with the expectation that they would be free to market their harvest to retailers. Others, recognizing that there were or were to be yet established regulations relating to licensing and permitting of such cultivation and sales facilities, nevertheless embarked on cultivation and commercial enterprises involving marijuana or cannabis products on the expectation that state and local authorities would not be equipped to regulate the industry or enforce the restrictions and regulations as they came into being.
Of note is that Proposition 64, while granting adults the legal right/privilege of using the substance, also provided local jurisdictions the authority to determine if they were to continue to prohibit cultivation of marijuana and commercial activity involving marijuana or cannabis-based products or whether growing marijuana or selling it and products derived from it were to be permitted and, if so, under what terms.
In San Bernardino County at present only five jurisdictions – the cities of Needles, Adelanto, San Bernardino, Hesperia and Barstow – have consented to marijuana-related commercial activity and only Needles, Adelanto, San Bernardino and Barstow have consented to allowing the drug to be cultivated within their respective city limits. All elsewhere in the county – including the 19 other cities/incorporated towns and the 19,073 square miles of unincorporated county territory – cultivation or commercial activity involving marijuana or cannabis products is illegal, with the exception of the sale of cannibidol-containing products used as liniments, salves and pain palliatives.
A handful of politically astute entities, recognizing that they could gain an inside track in the nascent cannabis industry by securing the acquiescence of a relatively small set of politicians and influential governmental officials and achieve if not a monopoly then a lock on a significant portion of the marijuana/cannabis market by securing what they knew would be a limited number of operating permits for such businesses, bought their way into the ground floor of the lucrative marijuanification of California by essentially paying off – bribing – or otherwise involving in the profit-taking a key set of politicians in the county, including but not limited to then-Adelanto Mayor Rich Kerr, then-Adelanto City Councilman John Woodard, then-Adelanto City Councilman Jermaine Wright, Adelanto Mayor Gabriel Reyes, San Bernardino Mayor John Valdivia, San Bernardino City Councilman Juan Figueroa, then-Hesperia City Councilman Jeremiah Brosowske, Hesperia City Councilman Bill Holland and Hesperia City Councilwoman Rebekah Swanson and similarly influencing or compromising municipal officials, including Adelanto City Manager Jessie Flores, who had previously served as that city’s contract economic development director. Several lawyers with the law firm of Best Best & Krieger, which offers legal service to a number of cities in San Bernardino County, did much to facilitate the establishment of franchised marijuana-related and cannabis-related businesses in certain cities. In those places, particularly in Adelanto and San Bernardino, monetary exchanges between business proponents and politicians greased the way for businesses cultivating, handling or selling marijuana and its derivatives to establish toeholds, thriving enterprises, near monopolies or monopolies. Adelanto City Attorney Ruben Duran and San Bernardino City Attorneys Thomas Rice and Sonia Carvalho, and special counsels Daniel Shimell and Christopher Moffitt, all of whom were members of the Best Best & Krieger firm, represented the cities of San Bernardino and Adelanto during crucial phases of those cities transitions into municipalities allowing marijuana-related and cannabis-related entrepreneurships, defending them against legal challenges by competing companies that applied for marijuana/cannabis-related business permits and were denied them in what have been widely alleged to be flawed selection processes tainted by favoritism and graft. In making blanket denials of those challenges, Duran, Rice, Carvalho, Shimell and Moffitt were obliged to ignore anything that might suggest the cities that employed them had acted inappropriately. They could admit no discourse relating to the dishonesty, in their particular cases, of Kerr, Woodard, Wright, Valdivia and Figueroa. Nevertheless, in their capacities, Duran, Rice, Carvalho, Shimell and Moffitt were exposed to multiple indications that graft had permeated Adelanto’s and San Bernardino’s permitting processes, and that Kerr, Woodard, Wright, Valdivia and Figueroa were key actors in such activity.
Elaborate and not-so-elaborate protocols for delivering gratuities to the politicians serving as the ultimate arbiters of which entrepreneurs would get operating permits evolved, ones that involved payoffs separate from and independent of the “legitimate” permitting and licensing fees paid over the counter at City Hall, ones that entailed in some cases one blanket inducement provided to all of the city-in-question’s officials, or in others gratuities handed around separately. The form for these kickbacks varied, from money in envelopes offered as donations either to an elected official’s campaign fund or a charity run by his spouse done openly or more privately, to money in paper bags to greenbacks in valises or briefcases to checks ostensibly paid for the rendering of a service or work that was never in fact performed to other types of payment. Creative conduits for those gratuities were devised. Some elected officials received larger payoff than others. Some who made those payments learned that licensing and permitting did not come immediately. Thus, more than one layer of payoffs were involved. On top of a basic bribe, intended to achieve for the giver approval of his permit application, was a second round of generosity toward Adelanto and San Bernardino officials, which existed as an expediting fee so that the waiting timetable for the licensing and permitting might be shortened.
After laying out hundreds of thousands of dollars and in some cases millions of dollars to get their marijuana businesses up and running, to their no little chagrin these new age “enfranchised” marijuana dealers discovered that they were competing against not just others like them who had paid both legitimate and illegitimate fees to get their permits and licenses and not just a few or a few dozen or even a score or two of bootleggers who had no permits and licenses for their enterprises, but indeed hundreds of illicit cultivation operations, ones that were growing prodigious amounts of marijuana that was increasing the supply and driving the price down. The reality was that virtually everyone in the marijuana business had cheated in some way to get established; it was just that some had cheated fair. They had cut the region’s public officials in on the bonanza that was to come. They had taken care of officialdom. Those who were playing by the rules and making sure that the pillars of the community were getting their piece of the action were up against others who weren’t cheating fair, ones who weren’t paying San Bernardino County’s public officials off.
Simultaneously, the groundswell of illicit marijuana farms, primarily in the desert, were causing real problems.
In some cases, those planting marijuana did so on property they actually owned or had some right to occupy. In many instances, the farms had materialized on land without the knowledge of the property owners. Boldly, banking on the possibility that an absentee landowner would be unlikely to visit property located in such remote reaches of the county’s harsh desert outback very often, outlaws would trespass without regard for the implication of what they were doing and the violent reaction their action might provoke.
Water, a crucial element in a marijuana growing enterprise, is a scarce and precious commodity in the desert, all the more so during the course of an historic drought. Only rarely are those growing marijuana illicitly using a water source to which they have legal access, such that virtually all of the water being used in the illegal marijuana farming in the desert is illegally diverted, in defiance of the established and adjudicated water rights in the region and the protocol in place to conserve the elixir of life.
Similarly, other utilities needed for such operations, primarily electricity, is in short supply in the remote areas where such farms are located. Thus, illicit growers routinely pirate electricity through bypasses, tapping into nearby power lines, riggings which, in addition to being thefts, carry with them some risk of electrocution or a fire hazard.
To ward off plant-eating bugs, growers utilize pesticides during the growing process, which when used unregulated, injudiciously or indiscriminately can represent an environmental hazard.
In some cases, the cultivators have gone to elaborate and dangerous lengths to protect their crops from poaching or interference, including arming themselves and those overseeing the crops, booby-trapping the periphery of the cropland or the property involved and threatening, intimidating or outright assaulting adjoining or nearby property owners.
For those reasons, the illicit marijuana farms represent a hazard to the well being of county residents, most particularly those who live in the area where the illegal activity is taking place and the property owners whose land has been commandeered, who are therefore subject to danger when seeking to access their own property, either by armed and hostile intruders or by the booby traps strewn about their land, some involving particularly vicious means, including explosives and antipersonnel ordinance that can blind, maim or kill, not to mention the legal risk a property owner uninvolved in any such cultivation on his or her property is subject to if law enforcement officers or prosecutors resolve to redress the situation on the assumption he or she is involved.
For that reason, when Sheriff McMahon in January 2021 undertook a stepped-up effort to counter the illegal growing of marijuana in the county’s rural area, his effort was widely hailed as a forthright move. Still, the sheriff’s department’s crusade against unlicensed marijuana growers is being exploited by an element of the San Bernardino County community no less sociopathic than the illicit cultivators authorities are seeking to rein in, ones who have wormed their way into the region’s political and governmental establishment and are engaging in profit-taking at the expense of the county’s citizens, not only with impunity but the active assistance of the department Dicus has now inherited from McMahon and the machinery of city and county and state government over which those corrupt politicians have seized control.
Bill Postmus in 2000 experienced a meteoric rise as a then-29-year-old wunderkid of San Bernardino Republican politics by appealing to voters as a rock-ribbed conservative Christian and family values-oriented, pro-military and pro-law enforcement politician to get elected to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors representing the First District. Four years later, he became the second youngest chairman of the board of supervisors in county history while simultaneously achieving the position of chairman of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee. Two years later, he was elected assessor, county government’s highest ranking taxing authority. He shortly thereafter fell from grace, slipping into scandal which led to criminal charges being filed against him in 2009, relating to action he had engaged in while assessor, and in 2010, stemming from the misuse of his voting authority while he had been a supervisor prior to that. In 2011 he was convicted of 14 felony political corruption charges, including criminal conspiracy (Penal Code Section 182), soliciting a bribe (Penal Code Section 86), accepting a bribe as a public official (Penal Code Section 165), engaging in a conflict of interest as a public official (Government Code Section 1090), and misappropriation of public funds (Penal Code Section 424), misuse of public facilities, fraud and perjury, along with a single misdemeanor drug charge relating to a supply of methamphetamine found in his home during a January 2009 search of those premises when investigators with the district attorney’s office were looking into his misuse of his governmental authority and government assets.
His legal travails had necessitated that Postmus resign from office and his convictions banned him for life from again holding office in California. Yet he could not abide being forced out of politics and he thereafter reinvented himself as a political facilitator and lobbyist, one who would assist politicians in engaging in the sort of depredations he had been involved in by obscuring what they are doing so that they do not get caught as he did. In this way, Postmus has gravitated to assisting businesses, individuals and entities intent on influencing politicians to approve proposals – including projects, contracts and franchises – that those seeking that influence need to gain that approval and make money. He has utilized and continues to utilize several enterprises he had or has ownership, control or influence over – including Mountain States Consulting Group, The Inland Empire political action committee, the Conservatives for a Republican Majority political action committee and the Citizens Against Wasteful Spending political action committee – to launder political donations to elected officeholders. Using such entities and by sponsoring fundraisers for current officeholders, Postmus has created and continues to create the opportunity for individuals to provide money to politicians in a way that the individuals or companies from whom or from which the money originated could not and cannot be traced.
While prior to the implosion of his personal political career, Postmus had been a committed opponent to the liberalization of marijuana policy in San Bernardino County, in his newfound role as a political consultant and political operative, Postmus has proven acutely conscious that a significant amount of money is being invested by business interests in marijuana-related enterprises and he abandoned his anti-cannabis orientation to become the primary operative of a set of what were at first loosely affiliated interests seeking commercial cannabis permits which have since became known and widely recognized as the Postmus cartel, an entity which includes Postmus’s longtime political associate and business partner John Dino DeFazio, with whom he has partnered in an marijuana cultivation and cannabis-project marketing enterprise.
In April 2021, Bill Postmus held a fundraiser for Supervisors Paul Cook, Dawn Rowe and Curt Hagman at the Tartan of Redlands at which Adelanto Mayor Gabriel Reyes, Adelanto City Manager Jessie Flores and DeFazio were prominent attendees.
In the Spring of 2021, Thurston “Smitty” Smith, who had started his political career as a councilman in Hesperia in 2006 with the backing of Bill Postmus and acceded to the California Assembly in 2020 with Postmus’s support, went on record as being in support of McMahon’s effort to eradicate illicit marijuana crops wherever they might be found.
In May 2021, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors made a special $10.4 million augmentation/appropriation to the county’s 2021-2022 Fiscal Year Budget earmarked to provide for enhanced code enforcement, with instructions that the lion’s share of the funding was intended to finance further sheriff’s department raids against unlicensed marijuana cultivation operations.
The following month there followed in quick succession two events which revealed the questionable motivation behind the intense illicit marijuana eradication effort.
On June 8, 2021, in a presentation before the Apple Valley Town Council during which he briefed town officials and the public on the dozens of operations his department had carried out over the previous five months, raids aimed at rooting up literally tens of thousands plants his officers had found, Sheriff McMahon in reporting on the energetic efforts his deputies were making sought to publicize and promote what his department was engaged in while explaining the legal limitations and challenges his department faced. In so doing, McMahon inadvertently acknowledged that his department was working to protect the marijuana growers who had obtained permits to cultivate the drug and safeguard the monopolies they had established. Without referencing the bribery and pay-to-play principles involved in getting those who had obtained licenses into their advantageous position, he referenced both Adelanto and Needles, the county’s two most prolific cities with regard to the production of marijuana, which both happened to employ his department as their contract law enforcement providers. He decried the “illegal grows” in those two places which were detracting from the revenue the two cities might otherwise realize if they were not constrained by a free market. The bootleggers his department was shutting down were, Mahon said, “in direct conflict and competition with the legal growers that are paying taxes and paying fees to the cities to operate. It is obviously impacting their business.”
McMahon, a resident of Apple Valley with close relationships with several of the Apple Valley Town Council members, felt he was among friends with whom he could speak intimately as if he were among friends. He let his guard down, essentially acknowledging that his department was making it possible for the more sophisticated operators, the new breed of marijuana entrepreneurs who had the savvy to pay off politicians, to profit and profit handsomely as a consequence of his deputies suppressing the competition. McMahon’s remarks made their way beyond Apple Valley, however, as the meeting was broadcast far and wide, virtually anywhere in the world, courtesy of the internet, the World Wide Web. Within days, the county was abuzz with how McMahon and his department were the official enforcement arm of the Postmus cartel, which had wrapped its tentacles around virtually every “legal” marijuana operation in the county, obtaining for itself a piece of the action, delivering payoffs to the county’s most powerful politicians such as Cook, Rowe and Hagman in the form of hefty political contributions or more elaborately hidden bribes. On June 18, overmatched by events and the perception that he was a mere lackey of Postmus, the political boss and head of the criminal enterprise that actually runs and controls the county, McMahon announced he was ready to call it quits, saying he was resigning as sheriff as of July 16, 2021.
In relatively short order, the board of supervisors selected McMahon’s second-in-command, Undersheriff Shannon Dicus, to succeed McMahon.
Dicus thereupon found himself and his department at a crossroads. Faced with the option of making a break from the past pattern by which Postmus and the Postmus cartel were given a free ride and allowed to purchase protection for themselves and the virtual monopoly the cartel has constructed for itself or instead including the Postmus cartel in his department’s sights and dismantling it in the same way his deputies were taking down illegal greenhouse after greenhouse in the desert by holding the cartel to account for the kickbacks being passed through to key politicians, Dicus chose to “dance with the ones who brung him,” as it would be considered poor form to bite the hands of the county supervisors who had just fed him the honor of conferring upon him the sheriff’s post. Dicus opted to not only leave Cook, Rowe and Hagman alone but to ignore the action Valdivia, Figueroa, Kerr, Woodard, Wright, Reyes, Brosowske, Holland, Swanson and Flores had engaged in along with Postmus and DeFazio. Instead, it was Dicus’s call to double down and continue to press the marijuana eradication effort against the county’s weed farmers who were not sophisticated enough to figure out a way to share their profits with the politicians who grant licenses to operate to those who want to grow and sell marijuana and its derivatives.
On August 10, 2021, Dicus, who at that point was comfortably into place as county sheriff for slightly less than a month, announced the rebranding of McMahon’s effort as Operation Hammer, one that would entail expanding the program from one team to six.
Three days later, the FBI on August 13, 2021 executed an arrest warrant for Kerr, based on the U.S. Attorney’s Office having charged him with accepting more than $57,000 in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for having acted to promote and voting to approve marijuana-related and cannabis-related business proposals in Adelanto while he was the mayor there.
On August 31, 2021, the five teams having been formed and fleshed out, Operation Hammer Strike was initiated.
Over the eight months during which Dicus’s department carried out the continuation of McMahon’s anti-marijuana cultivation effort in the form of Operation Hammer Strike, the sheriff’s department gobbled up more than $4 million of the $10.4 million the board of supervisors had set aside in the current budget for code enforcement efforts, while utilizing a like amount of money available to it from other funding sources. A tally of what had been accomplished under the auspices of Operation Hammer Strike through May 24 showed the department’s deputies and detectives, supervised by sergeants, lieutenants, two captains and a deputy chief, had served 875 search warrants, arrested 1,016 suspects countywide and dismantled 5,833 green houses, in the process seizing 1,151,879 cannabis plants, 139,763.6 pounds of processed marijuana, more than 60,108 grams of concentrated cannabis, 97.8 pounds of psilocybin mushrooms, 160 grams of methamphetamine, 290 firearms and $2.9 million in cash. Estimated conservatively, the total wholesale product value of cannabis seized during the department’s operations has been $787 million. Also as a consequence of Operation Hammer Strike to that date, the sheriff’s department had disconnected 41 electrical bypasses by which growers had tapped into nearby power lines and took down 24 tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] labs.
By virtually any standard, the sheriff’s department’s program to counter illicit marijuana cultivation activity that had begun in January 2021 was a roaring tactical success, unparalleled in San Bernardino County or California law enforcement and likely unmatched in the annals of U.S. law enforcement, an accomplishment of which McMahon and Dicus and the deputies who served under them could be, should be and are rightly proud.
Despite the success that had been achieved, paradoxically, the capacity of those willing to run the gauntlet and test both the resolve and ability of the sheriff’s department and the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office to follow through with criminal charges did not diminish but intensified. In the contest to see whether it would be the sheriff’s department or the illicit marijuana growers who would outlast the other, the growers appeared to be the winners. The seemingly unending supply of criminals determined to profit by bootleg marijuana production threatened to render McMahon’s and now Dicus’s determination to bring them to heel futile, to use the word of former San Bernardino City Attorney Saenz referenced in describing the inexhaustible legion of those willing to venture capital and effort to tap into the lucrative marijuana/cannabis market. Rarely would more than two weeks go by without the six teams managing to uproot and seize more tonnage of marijuana than they had in any given week or similar timeframe in the past. Still, even though some 1,300 people had been arrested during the combined pre-Hammer Strike and Hammer Strike operations, it appeared that ever more people were willing to replace those being rolled up.
As of June 1, however, there is a tangible sign that the criminal element involved in the massive scale production of marijuana, at least in San Bernardino, has been reduced.
Sheriff Dicus said as much publicly on May 24, when in addressing the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, he remarked, with some degree of modest understatement, “We are making a dent in this, With all of our efforts together, we’re seeing crime reduction. We started with over 1,285 known locations. I am pleased to report we are now down to 764 known grow locations that are still pending our enforcement efforts.”
That represented, Dicus indicated a “reduction of known locations by over 40 percent.”
An intense effort in the Morongo Valley, according to the department, has led to a circumstance in which no new known cultivation efforts are cropping up.
Last month, for the first time since the effort began 17 months before, the illicit cultivation activity appeared to be diminishing rather than increasing.
A factor in that development, the Sentinel is informed, was the March 3 discovery of a huge cultivation facility in the 46200 block of Palma Vista Road in Newberry Springs. That development grew out of a previous raid on the same five-acre property, then owned by Cheng Lin, in August 2020, almost five months before McMahon had launched what has since evolved into Operation Hammer Strike, at which time deputies found within eight greenhouses over 2,000 potted marijuana plants and some 100 pounds of processed marijuana. Lin, who had a single-story home on the property, was issued a citation.
Within three months of receiving the citation, Lin sold the property to Qiao Yan Liu. Nevertheless, according to the district attorney’s office, Lin continued to cultivate marijuana on the property. Authorities, however, did not know, nor could they readily perceive, just how much marijuana was being grown on the property.
In the course of Operation Hammer Strike, one of the team’s used the successful August 2020 raid and other information developed by investigators to obtain a search warrant for Liu’s property. That warrant was served on March 3.
According to the department, they contacted Liu shortly after their arrival on the property, at which point Liu had in his possession more than $450,00 cash. As the team proceeded with the search of the property, Liu went straight to Lin’s home. When investigators followed him into Lim’s premises, they found 50 pounds of processed marijuana along with cultivation equipment. Inside Lin’s vehicle was $13,000 cash.
On the property, deputies came across several shacks and a cargo shipping container. Upon opening the container, deputies found that it sheltered a mechanized floor entrance to an underground bunker, some 230 feet long and 60 feet wide, the floor for which was 15 feet below ground level. In addition to being obscured by the shipping container, the entrance had an electrically lifted metal door. The bunker itself was constructed with more than 30 Conex boxes and entailed roughly 20 separate chambers using grow lights powered by diesel generators that allowed up to four growing cycles per year. The 13,800 square-foot underground chamber consisted of separate cultivation quarters using artificial lights. Growing at that point within it were 6,208 plants.
Those plants alone were valued at roughly $12 million on the street, Dicus estimated.
Lin, 30, and Liu, 35, were arrested. The pair were originally booked on drug law violations.
Three others — Wu Lin, 33, Zhonggui He, 59, and Mingfeng He, 37 — were arrested and booked on similar charges. Subsequently, the district attorney’s office charged Lin and Liu with felony drug and environmental law violations and issued arrest warrants for six others, Weijian Liu, 33; Aiqing Lin, 52; Wenren He, 42; Lijie Lin, 37; Bin Li, 38 and Huang Lin, 27.
The raid on Liu’s property represented a turning point for several reasons. One is that it cut into a major operation. Second, it represented a substantial monetary loss to the tong, or gang, bankrolling the enterprise. Third, it involved substantial and serious, meaning felony, charges against those involved, ones that potentially carry with them years and not just days or mere months of incarceration time.
His department’s efforts were previously undercut by state law, Dicus said, because the punishment for illicit marijuana cultivation was not prohibitive enough.
“Proposition 64 changed illegal cultivation from a felony to a misdemeanor and the fine only being approximately $500,” Dicus said. “So, when you [consider] risk versus reward, and some of our smaller grows gross a million dollars, the reward is great and risk is very little.”
With those they are corralling able to pay a small fine and then go back to what they were doing, the department was unable to make any lasting inroad on the problem, Dicus said. The district attorney’s office, however, “has been innovative in looking at environmental crimes and code enforcement,” Dicus explained. In this way, authorities are now able to seek jail time and financial penalties that are real deterrents, the sheriff said.
“Hitting them in the pocketbook has been much more beneficial,” Dicus said.
Pursuant to Proposition 64, in addition to illegal cannabis cultivation being reduced to a misdemeanor without regard to the number of plants or amount of product produced, offenders could be subjected to no more than a citation and release within 24 hours.
The Sentinel was told that with the more aggressive charging and fining tactics, those willing to brave arrest are dwindling, such that the number of illicit cultivation operations is now in decline.
Another underground bunker had been discovered on a property in Phelan, Dicus said.
The tong with which Lin and Liu are affiliated and others that are sensitive to what has befallen them in the last three months remain committed to tapping into the highly lucrative illicit marijuana cultivation business model, the Sentinel is informed, but have been persuaded to discontinue operating out of San Bernardino County and instead ply their money-making formula in other areas where they are also so engaged, such as Riverside, Inyo, Kern, Imperial and San Diego counties, all of which entail wide-open remote desert expanses that present patrol and monitoring challenges.
Before the board of supervisors on May 24, Dicus did not address the controversy that his department and the county are courting by allowing Postmus and others who are sophisticated enough to make payments to politicians to operate as “legitimate” cultivators of marijuana to be sold at licensed and approved retail outlets. In Dicus’s cosmology, those who are permitted by the government to operate within the specified regulations pertaining to commercial cannabis enterprises subject to fees and taxes are off limits to his department’s enforcement action, no matter what tactics they employed to obtain that permission. As such, the businesses operating in San Bernardino, Adelanto, Needles, Hesperia and shortly in Barstow are eligible to make as much money as they can, free from interference by his department or the competitors his business is actively seeking to put of commission.
Dicus suggested the vast majority of the county’s residents accept the way things are.
“The public is behind us,” Dicus said. “We are fighting the good fight and I know our citizens know that.”
By Mark Gutglueck