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7-foot marijuana plants found in Kennewick backyard bust

Kennewick Detective Chris Littrell removes a mature marijuana plant from an outdoor grow operation Thursday afternoon behind a home at 1217 W. 2nd Ave. A tip through Crimestoppers is being credited for the bust. Check this site and Friday Tri-City Herald for more information. (Herald/Bob Brawdy)
Kennewick Detective Chris Littrell removes a mature marijuana plant from an outdoor grow operation Thursday afternoon behind a home at 1217 W. 2nd Ave. A tip through Crimestoppers is being credited for the bust. Check this site and Friday Tri-City Herald for more information. (Herald/Bob Brawdy)

KENNEWICK - An anonymous tip led Kennewick police detectives to a "significant" marijuana growing operation Thursday in the backyard of a Kennewick home.

About 30 plants and at least 16 pounds of processed marijuana were found when investigators searched the home at 1217 W. Second Ave.

Value of the processed pot is estimated at about $2,500 a pound, or $40,000, said Detective Rick Runge.

The resident, Jesus Gustavo Arteaga, 30, was arrested and booked into the Benton County jail on suspicion of manufacturing marijuana.

Arteaga reportedly claimed the marijuana was for medicinal purposes and told detectives he was providing medical marijuana for himself and somebody else, said Detective Sgt. Jack Simington.

"He has it posted as a medical marijuana house," Simington said. "But what he has posted and what he has going on is different."

State law says a person with a valid recommendation for medical marijuana can grow up to 15 plants and have a 60-day supply of processed marijuana, which is set at 24 ounces.

"The provider cannot supply himself. He cannot be a patient and a provider," Runge said.

It wasn't immediately clear whether Arteaga had a valid medical marijuana recommendation, but investigators said what he had in processed marijuana was well over the 60-day supply.

"This is not for personal consumption," Simington said.

Detectives found two suitcases full of packaged processed pot and a third in the process of being filled, he said.

Some plants were found in containers in a shed, but others were planted in the backyard with some growing to 7 feet tall.

"They are very mature plants and obviously had been harvested off for quite some time," Simington said.

Evidence found at the house also indicated Arteaga was getting ready to grow more plants to increase his production, Simington said.

Neighbors peered over their fences into the backyard of Arteaga's home Thursday as detectives counted and pulled the plants out of the ground.

Tops of a few of the tallest plants could be seen over the 6-foot-tall fence.

One neighbor, who didn't want to give his name, said he smelled marijuana coming from the home occasionally but just thought the residents were smoking it.

"I was tripping," he said about seeing police raid the home. "It's amazing this could happen. I guess you never really know who lives next door to you."

Cpl. Matt Newton said an anonymous complaint to Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers started the investigation. Detectives then did surveillance on the house before securing a warrant Thursday to search.

Simington said growing marijuana is not only illegal, but also dangerous because growers often are targeted by criminals who traffic marijuana. Growers could find their homes burglarized, be assaulted and in some cases killed by marijuana traffickers, he said.

"Dopers can find dopers," he said.

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