The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider a substitute motion by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Sheila Kuehl that seeks enhanced enforcement against water theft and illegal cannabis grows in the Antelope Valley and illegal cannabis dispensaries in unincorporated LA County.

The supervisors’ motion directs the relevant county departments to support or pursue legislation to amend state law against water theft and illegal cannabis grows and illegal cannabis dispensaries including authorizing county counsel to civilly prosecute and enjoin water pollution from cannabis cultivation.

The motion also seeks to address potential loopholes or exploitation by illegal cannabis growers and pursue increasing local government controls over illegal cannabis and unregistered hemp crops.

Barger agreed to postpone a vote on a previous motion at the June 22 meeting after her Board colleagues raised concerns with the motion due to uncertainty over how the proposed enforcement measure would affect legal cannabis. The motion requires at least four votes to pass.

The substitute motion, which has Kuehl as a co-sponsor, cites concerns that growers of illegal cannabis may exploit the physical similarities between young cannabis and industrial hemp crops, which, if registered, are allowed.

“Both plants are identical during their early growth stages,” the motion said. “Notwithstanding a lack of registration, illegal cannabis growers may claim their illegal cannabis operation is hemp to avoid or delay any enforcement. Residents, and businesses, in the county’s unincorporated areas also continue to be negatively impacted by the crime and nuisances that illegal cannabis dispensaries cause and attract.”

Illegal marijuana cultivation sites in the Antelope Valley have been tied to water theft and an uptick in violence in the area.

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said during a July 7 press conference that residents and passersby have been subjected to threats of violence. He also said the illegal grows were siphoning water from residents and farmers by tapping into fire hydrants and digging un-permitted wells.

Complaints from residents prompted a massive law enforcement crackdown on illegal marijuana grow operations in the Antelope Valley last month that resulted in more than 130 arrests and the seizure of marijuana with a street value of more than $1.19 billion, Villanueva said.

Threats to the water system continue despite efforts by the LA County Public Works Department to harden the Waterworks Districts’ infrastructure against theft and illegal tapping including the removal of unnecessary fire hydrants, the motion said.

The Waterworks Districts provided funding to the sheriff’s Department for enhanced patrols in the Hi-Vista where the water theft has had the greatest impact to the water system. However, funding for additional enforcement has run out. Barger and Kuehl’s’ motion seeks to allocate $100,000 of discretionary funds from Barger’s Fifth District to continue the protection of the county’s infrastructure

The motion also seeks to shift $250,000 from the Fifth District’s one-time Consumer Protection Settlement fund allocation to pay for the sheriff’s department’s continued targeted enforcement and patrols of the areas impacted by illegal grows and water theft in the Antelope Valley.

The Board of Supervisors will conduct a live virtual meeting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

To listen by telephone call (877) 873-8017 Enter the access code when prompted. Access Code for English: 111111 Access Code for Spanish: 222222.

To address the Board on all regular agenda items, call 877-226-8163, using participant code 1336503, starting at 9 a.m.

Written public comments may be submitted through the website https://publiccomment.bos.lacounty.gov, which will become part of the official record.

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