Off Beat: Gardening program harvests equipment from raided pot grows

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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The massive “Gang Green” marijuana bust will help green-thumb volunteers feed the hungry.

That’s just one unexpected benefit of the sweep two months ago that raided 56 residential marijuana-growing sites in Clark County.

In addition to seizing 6,800 marijuana plants, the Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force wound up with a bunch of indoor-agriculture equipment. Some of the items are going to the Master Gardener program that’s part of Washington State University Clark County Extension.

“It happens that one of the Master Gardeners owned one of the homes” that was rented by a marijuana grower, said Carolyn Gordon, who coordinates the Master Gardener program.

The homeowner asked if the growing equipment in the rental house could be donated to the nonprofit Master Gardener Foundation. Task force officers had plenty of evidence, so “We took what we could use,” Gordon said.

“We have a Master Gardener who has some knowledge of different kinds of lighting products and he took inventory,” she said. “The retail value he came up with was something close to $10,000; that’s from one home that was raided. For our foundation, it’s a great deal.”

The haul included grow lights and bulbs, fans and liquid organic fertilizers. The county’s Master Gardeners will use the impounded material to grow plant starts that will eventually benefit a lot of people and programs, Gordon said.

Some plants are donated to community gardens, including sites that raise produce for local feed-the-hungry programs.

“We also have a large plant sale that brings $25,000 to $30,000 in revenue. The money goes back to the community in the form of horticultural grants,” Gordon said.

“We were glad to take advantage of a bad situation,” Gordon said, although …

“It was unfortunate for our Master Gardener whose home was rented.”

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.