Grow house bust in Monroe when growers allegedly stole city power

A couple was arrested and charged with theft of services from the City of Monroe and manufacture of a controlled substance after the alleged theft of one revealed the other.

According to Monroe Police Chief R.V. Watts, he received a call at about 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night from an official with the City of Monroe Utilities notifying him that it appeared that power was being stolen from the city by someone who lived on Windsor Drive in Monroe. Watts said since that is sometimes an indication of a grow house, a warrant was sought and executed at the property that was located at 411 Windsor Drive. He said it turned out that they were right.

“We took down a pretty substantial grow house. It took them until Monday to get it all out,” Watts said, adding two individuals were taken into custody and there was a lot of equipment as well as the product to remove from the home. “We seized over 100 plus plants of marijuana.”

Watts said it was an elaborate operation at various stages of production from seeds to some budding out to plants of different sizes as well as some dried product already prepared for distribution.

In custody and charged with theft of services and possession/manufacture of a controlled substance are Earnest Alexander Bess, 45, and Kendra Vinsia Bess, 42. They are being held at the Walton County Detention Center on a total of $13,500 bond each. (Please note an arrest or charge does not constitute a conviction.)

“We’re now trying to figure out how long they’ve been stealing power from the city based on the equipment they had and the time it has been in operation,” Watts said.

Theft of power, or thermal heating from the excessive power necessary to grow indoor marijuana plants, is often what tips authorities off to grow houses. Watts said not only is the theft of power a red flag for the possibility of a grow house, but it is also a very dangerous practice. The person stealing it has to tap into the power base while it is still live.

According to the National Conference of State Legislators, indoor growing systems use fans and lights sometimes up to 24 hours a day. The drain on power grids in states that have legalized marijuana production has proved to be significant. Pacific Power in Portland is reported to have experienced seven blackouts that traced back to marijuana production facilities the summer that Oregon first legalized recreational marijuana. It also noted that 45% of Denver’s load growth is for the increased demand for electricity to power its marijuana facilities. The NCSL reported that in 2015 the average electricity consumption of a 5,000-square-foot indoor facility in Boulder County was 41,808 kilowatt-hours per month compared to about 630 kilowatt-hours for the average household in the county. In 2012, a study found that cannabis production makes up 1 percent of the national electricity used and in California, where marijuana production is the highest, it was actually 3 percent.

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