Even after Franklin police executed a search warrant which led to the discovery of a massive grow operation that authorities say was marijuana, the Milwaukee County DA’s office has not issued any charges in the case.
This is the sixth chapter in Wisconsin Right Now’s new investigative series – the “No Process Files” – exploring the Milwaukee County DA’s high percentage of non prosecuted cases. If you would like us to feature a case from that or another county, email [email protected]. You will remain anonymous.
Franklin police have an alleged massive multi-million dollar marijuana grow operation in their backyard, but the DA won’t do anything about it. Even after executing a search warrant, through which police confirmed the presence of marijuana plants, the 11 greenhouse operation is still present, seemingly abandoned by the growers and authorities, left unguarded down a country road populated with families and traveled by school buses.
Why no arrests? Why hasn’t the alleged Franklin marijuana grow operation, which is also located near the home of a local politician, been seized and confiscated by authorities, and why did DA Chisholm and his office essentially tell Franklin police to walk away after the search warrant was executed, leaving them with a municipal ticket as their only recourse?
This fits a pattern with Chisholm. A previous Wisconsin Right Now investigation found that Chisholm’s no prosecution rate has exploded in the past year, with his office refusing to prosecute 6 in 10 of all felony charges requested by police. Last December, the office refused to prosecute more than 8 in 10 misdemeanor cases requested by cops. There are also cases rejected after filing, which makes the total number of cases prosecuted even lower. Meanwhile, crime exploded.
In the alleged Franklin marijuana grow operation case, police used confidential informants to get a judge to sign the search warrant, seized plants that sources say tested as marijuana, and stopped a car with two men who said they were from Mexico, lacked identification, and who allegedly “had marijuana pieces on the back of their legs” as they left the grow. Yet still it sits.
Although police, including the chief and officers, wouldn’t speak with us, saying the operation was still under investigation, we learned from the landowner that they sent him a municipal ticket for marijuana possession as a result of the grow, establishing that police believe the grow tested positive for pot. The landowner, who claims it was hemp and who leased the land to others, told Wisconsin Right Now that Chisholm’s office wouldn’t take the case forward for criminal charges even though it’s believed the grow is worth millions.
The search warrant said that authorities were investigating the potential crime of manufacturing a controlled substance, marijuana possession, and possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, which could normally result in serious criminal charges, not a mere ticket. Not this time.
One of the confidential informants looked into one of the greenhouses and “observed marijuana plants,” according to the search warrant; “he stated he was familiar with marijuana plants; that there were six greenhouses and two smaller tents; that while leaving the property he was followed by two vehicles and when stopped, they exited their vehicles and the two Hispanic males asked what he was doing on the property in a threatening way.” They then claimed they were growing hemp with permits, but sources – and the ticket – indicate police have tests saying otherwise.
WRN has received information on this case from a prosecutorial and other sources, who were not allowed to comment or share information on the case. We were able to confirm our sources’ identities and that they are in a position to know the facts of this case.
According to the State of Wisconsin, under the 2018 Farm Bill and 2019 Wis. Act 68, hemp, which is legal, is defined as “the plant cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 THC concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” But our sources say plants seized from this grow tested higher than that.
To grow hemp, you need a grower license and annual registration, the state says. Under state law, the news media can’t get a list of hemp licensees unless the licensee has given consent to “share” the information. The state adds that licensees must “destroy any non-compliant hemp lot if a retest, resample, or remediation option is not available or not selected.”
WRN has made the editorial decision not to identify the location or names of those involved because the massive Franklin grow continues to exist, seemingly abandoned, at least for the season. We can confirm that we spoke with the elderly man who owns the land, and who had received the citation for possession of marijuana in the mail the day we visited him. WRN also confirmed the existence of the operation on Sept. 15 by use of a drone. WRN obtained photos from a source who did not want to be identified.
WRN has exclusively obtained the affidavit used for the search warrant which was signed by a Milwaukee County circuit court judge.
The Search Warrant Affidavit
According to the search warrant affidavit, Franklin police began to investigate the operation after receiving information from three confidential informants.
The three confidential informants all reported being on the property in either July or August and observing the Franklin marijuana grow operation. All three stated they were familiar with marijuana with one estimating 3,500 total marijuana plants. Another reported being confronted by two Hispanic males in two cars in a threatening manner, the search warrant alleges.
The investigating officer reported smelling a strong odor of marijuana while attempting to take photos of the greenhouses from a neighboring property. We smelled a similar odor wafting over from the grow when interviewing the landowner.
The state Department of Agriculture was contacted for a list of licensed hemp farms. There was no license issued for the address of the operation; however, there was a permit issued for an address nearby that did not exist, according to the search warrant.
The warrant identifies the LLC that leased the land as Green Haven Fields, LLC. We contacted the Department of Agriculture to obtain the permit and find out whether the state ever inspected the grow but were told it will take many days to answer our questions as it would be handled as an open records request.
A traffic stop was initiated by police on a vehicle that had left the property. Police reported a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle. The two occupants did not have identification and stated they were from Mexico. There was a small quantity of marijuana found on the back legs of the two occupants; however, they were released on the scene.
Green Haven Fields lists a Brookfield address.
Execution of the Search Warrant
Franklin Police obtained the signed search warrant from Milwaukee County Circuit Judge William Sosnay and executed it on September 1. According to sources, After they executed the warrant, they contacted John Chisholm’s office. Chisholm’s office reviewed the affidavit for the search warrant and told officers to leave the scene and not seize sealed packages of suspected marijuana bud. Bud is the part of the plant that contains high level of THC.
According to the search warrant return, there were 14 samples seized. WRN has learned that the samples were sent to a laboratory for testing. The samples did test positive for levels of THC that are found in marijuana as opposed to hemp, the sources said.
The landowner and his wife, who leased the farmland where the greenhouses sit, agreed to speak with Wisconsin Right Now. However, as stated above, we’ve decided not to reveal their identities.
They live in a tranquil country setting down a road not very far from the police department. The man told us he had just received a municipal ticket for marijuana possession on Sept. 15, 2021. He showed us the envelope from the City of Franklin. He’s upset about the ticket and planning to fight it because he believes the plants were hemp and, anyways, he had leased the land to someone else and wasn’t growing any of it himself.
The man, who was wearing a Ducks Unlimited baseball cap and a Bass Pro Shop shirt, claimed that the police “screwed up. They didn’t do it right. They are a laughingstock how they went at it all.”
He claims he was shown a “legal permit” for hemp growing by the people who leased the land. He claimed it’s “not unusual” for hemp to “go over the limit” of allowable THC, and normally the state makes people “burn it.”
In this case, he says police showed up at night and lit up the area. He heard that the District Attorney didn’t want to file charges, so he was surprised to get the municipal ticket in his mailbox.
The man says that he was mowing the grass, when a man approached him about leasing the farmland. He says he’s lived in the area for 46 years, is a former engineer, and used to get along with a lot of local police. He says that police are “saying the plants were tested. They must have tested over the legal limit.”
“They had lights there all night,” he said of police. He claims the plants are being used to make and sell CBD oil in places like Sussex and Big Bend. The man said that a fire broke out on the property on Labor Day, after the police had already done their search and seizure. He claims he was told the people were “raising hemp,” and identified one as a man who used to own a local garden shop. That man is now living in Arizona, according to online records. The landowner said most of the workers were Hispanic and some brought children and women to the property.
We’ve reached out to DA Chisholm’s office and Franklin Mayor Steve Olson for comment. We will add any response to the article.
What is the Difference Between Marijuana and Hemp?
According to Wisconsin and federal law, the key difference between the two is the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content.
THC is the primary chemical found in the cannabis plant that is responsible for the “high” that is normally associated with cannabis.
The term “hemp” is used to mean cannabis that contains 0.3 percent or less THC content by dry weight. Because the THC level is so low in hemp, it’s not likely to get you high.
Usually, when people say “marijuana,” they’re talking about cannabis that can get you high. Legally, “marijuana” refers to cannabis that has more than 0.3 percent THC by dry weight. Street-level marijuana has THC levels between 10%-15% and averages about 12%.
The state says, “Once you register your hemp growing or processing location(s), DATCP will share your location and contact information with law enforcement on a regular basis. For this reason, it is essential that you provide accurate location information and maps and update your license if you need to change growing, storage, or processing locations. This saves the grower and processor from unwanted attention, and saves law enforcement time and money on unnecessary investigations.”
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