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Manteca rentals going to pot
Three such medi-pot grower incidents a month
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Sgt. Danny Erb checks out a back room that had reportedly been filled with growing marijuana plants in a Powers Tract home where renters had not paid their rent for the past three months. - photo by GLENN KAHL
A family growing marijuana in a rental house in the Powers Tract neighborhood sandwiched between Spreckels Park and Manteca High left the three-bedroom residence in shambles owing the landlord $3,300 for three months of back rent.

Manteca Police detective Sergeant Danny Erb said officers usually see one or two of these cases a month in a house or apartment where marijuana card-carrying renters ply their trade and then just move out and leave a mess for the owner to clean up after them.

Erb said he has seen cases where holes have been cut in walls, ceilings and even floors to ventilate, grow and store the marijuana.  They set up exhaust fans and air conditioners to maintain the needed temperatures to grow the leafy drug, he said.

“When they have a medical marijuana card, our hands are tied,” the detective said.  “They just walk out with their card in hand, and they are free and clear.”.

The Cowell Street home is owned by a soft-speaking Hispanic woman who lives in Escalon and is now going to have to clean the garbage and trash that has been left behind inside and outside of the house.  She said when she had rented the residence to the family the man’s profile and job reference in Tracy made her believe he would be a good renter with their two children.

Erb noted that the family had paid a $1,000 upfront cleaning deposit. He predicted it would probably cost the owner some $5,000 to clean it up and return it to a state where it can be rented again.

The homeowner said that she and her family had lived in the house prior to their move to Escalon, saying she always kept it neat as a pin – look at it now, she added.

Manteca real estate professional Virginia Zapada of PMZ Realty was there to help guide her friend who had been a former client.  Zapada said most of the buyers and sellers she serves end up being longtime friends and she wants to support their needs when she has the opportunity.

The owner said she believed the parents had moved out of the house in the past several months, because when she would visit the neighborhood she noticed four to five teenage boys going into the house followed by one girl about 16.  The woman said when she would approach the house over the last year there were two dogs that would charge at her.

She added that she had offered to continue having her gardener to keep the yard and lawn up weekly, but the renter said he didn’t want anyone like that on the property.  Consequently the yard became unkempt, she noted.

In the house there was evidence that marijuana plants had been cultivated in a back room as well as in a bedroom closet.  The larger cultivating site had apparently been a patio area that had been walled in to be part of the house.  The floor had been covered with dirt where many of the plants had been located.    It was believed there were as many as 25 plants in the house where all the rooms, including the kitchen and bath, were strewn with clutter and dirt.

Pot plants reportedly produce a stronger, heavier crop when cultivated indoors and one fully grown pot plant can eventually bring in as much as $1,000.   Those growers using residential homes as fronts for their pot factories usually attempt to make the residence appear that someone is actively living there.

Also, since marijuana gives off a distinctive odor, there is usually an effort to mask that odor with charcoal filters or by maintaining a closed growing environment with constant air conditioning.