Upward of 10,000 Marijuana plants are reportedly being housed in a secret growing operation in Franklin, according to Milwaukee County Court documents.
In a search warrant affidavit filed by the Franklin Police Department, officers described an at least six-greenhouse operation on farmland off of 116th Street on the city’s south side.
Franklin police repeatedly refused to discuss the operation, citing an ongoing investigation, but records show that substances labeled “drugs” were seized from the property and are currently in the possession of Franklin police.
Franklin Mayor Steve Olson said he’s frustrated with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office and its lack of prosecution against the owners of the growth operation.
“There is major illegal drug activity going on that was not prosecuted, and no one got arrested for, and now the city is responsible … for what is the responsibility of the state and district attorney’s office,” Olson said. “They’re not doing their job, plain and simple.”
But, according to Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern, the police department has not yet requested criminal charges be filed against the operation’s owners, and the final investigation report has yet to be submitted.
Here’s what we know about the operation.
Operation reportedly included several greenhouses and thousands of plants
According to the affidavit:
Police confirmed Marijuana on the property as early as July 2021, using criminal informants and other forms of surveillance. According to the informants, one greenhouse contained about 3,500 Marijuana plants; the informant noted two tents and six greenhouses on the property that month.
The property is leased to Green Haven Fields LLC, which has an address listed in Brookfield. The company organized in January, according to records from the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.
Police discovered multiple systems in place to protect the operation from detection or deter law enforcement and others from the property.
These include, but aren’t limited to, guard dogs, movable venting systems to control the odor of Marijuana, fake names on utility records and other business records, altered electrical systems to avoid registering structures with utility companies, and deodorizers to mask the smell of Marijuana.
Police also found Marijuana on people driving off the property or in their vehicles.
The landowner told police he is not aware of the identity of the owners or their growing operation, but was told they were growing hemp on his land. Growing hemp is legal, but heavily regulated, in Wisconsin.
In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the landowner insisted he believed only hemp was being grown on the property.
He said he has received two citations in connection to the Marijuana growth but has been given little information otherwise. One ticket he received did not list the fine he was required to pay or how much of the illegal substance was on his property, the landowner said. Police declined to offer any more details.
Olson confirmed that the city had served the landowner with two citations: one for Marijuana growth and one for improper zoning.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture provided police with a list of licensed hemp farms in Milwaukee County, but a permit applied to Green Haven Fields LLC used an address that did not exist, according to the city treasurer’s office.
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge William Sosnay signed off on the search warrant Sept. 7, and police executed the warrant Sept. 8.
It’s legal to grow hemp in Wisconsin
Hemp and Marijuana are both cannabis plants, but the key difference between hemp and Marijuana is the amount of psychoactive compound — known as tetrahydrocannabinol or THC — that each plant possesses. THC provides the high associated with most cannabis plants, but is present in lower levels in the strain of cannabis known as hemp.
Under federal law, the maximum amount of THC allowed in a cannabis plant before it is considered illegal is 0.3%.
Often, until the plant is fully grown, THC levels cannot be measured to determine whether it’s classified as legal or illegal, according to Jay Selthofner, a hemp farmer and founder of the Wisconsin Cannabis Activist Network.
All cannabis seeds must be tested and approved by the state before being purchased to prevent the seeds from producing an illegal cannabis strain, Selthofner said. It’s unlikely that seeds for growing hemp could be mistaken for seeds meant to grow Marijuana, he said.
Marijuana legalization efforts in Wisconsin
Marijuana is illegal in Wisconsin, but as of May, adult recreational use of the drug is legal in the surrounding states of Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois.
Joseph J. Czarnezki, a Milwaukee County supervisor who represents Greenfield, Franklin and Milwaukee, was a co-sponsor of a resolution decreasing the fine for Marijuana possession to $1 in Milwaukee County. The resolution passed in March.
He also authored a resolution calling on the state to legalize Marijuana.
Gov. Tony Evers has also proposed legalizing Marijuana at the state level, but the proposal ultimately did not make it into the most recent state budget.