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January 15, 2021
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Cannabis grower pleads guilty to felony environmental violations

November 6, 2020

Michael Silva, 37, of Cazadero pled guilty to three felony counts related to environmental violations on property where he was growing 1,450 cannabis plants without environmental permits. Silva entered the pleas on October 14, 2020 Pursuant to an agreement with the District Attorney’s Office, he will perform remediation, 300 hours of community service, obtain the correct permits, and satisfy other requirements related to his cultivation activities on his Cazadero property, with the understanding the felony charges will be dismissed upon completion in a year. 

Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Mark Urioste took the defendant’s pleas to felony cultivation with environmental violations that included water diversion, streambed alteration, water pollution, and failing to obtain the necessary permits from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, State Water Resources Control Board, and North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. Silva also pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts related to the unlawful cultivation of cannabis. 

District Attorney Ravitch stated, “The defendant’s activities not only presented unacceptable harm to the environment but also contributed to the illegal cannabis market, a problem for this community and for lawful cultivation.” 

In September of 2019, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) discovered the grow operation and executed a search warrant revealing the unpermitted commercial cannabis operation in the hills above Cazadero. Silva was diverting water without permits and engaged in unpermitted construction work without best management practices that would result in water pollution if not corrected. Silva will not be sentenced provided he abides by his agreement with the prosecution. The agreement also requires Silva to obtain the necessary permits to perform stream restoration over the next year. Should Silva fail to comply with the agreement reached with the prosecution, he faces potential administrative enforcement by sister State agencies, including CDFW and the Water Boards and is subject to a maximum sentence of 10 years. 

The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Ann Gallagher White, with investigation provided by CDFW and with assistance from the Water Boards.