Officers searched the Unauthorized Art compound in Arcata Wednesday and found an unauthorized marijuana grow, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Started as a collective to provide local artists and musicians affordable studio space, it appeared the Unauthorized Art building had been turned into a for-profit, commercial marijuana cultivation operation, according to sheriff’s office Sgt. Bryan Quenell, whose Community Response Unit reported finding more than 200 pounds of processed marijuana and 171 growing plants in Wednesday’s search.
Acting on information that came into the sheriff’s office’s crime tip line, the unit conducted a probation search on the building in the 200 block of Alder Grove Road, located just off West End Road. When deputies arrived on scene, according to a sheriff’s office press release, they met with Colin Baldridge, the 31-year-old property manager who has an on-site apartment and is on active probation stemming from a 2008 DUI conviction.
Acting on a search clause that was a condition of Baldridge’s probation, deputies searched Baldridge’s residence - as well as the studios he was charged with managing - and reported finding the processed marijuana buds, worth an estimated $400,000, as well as 450 grams of concentrated cannabis, scales, packaging materials and pay-owe sheets, according to Quenell.
The sergeant said the tip deputies received indicated the bust might be big, but deputies weren’t expecting what they found. “We had information that he was heavily involved in drug sales,” Quenell said. “We didn’t know how big, but we knew he was big into it.”
Also at the Unauthorized Art building, deputies contacted Paul Cohen, 56, and Jimi Suma, 37. According to the press release, a records check indicated Suma had an outstanding felony warrant for a probation violation issued out of Mendocino County, and a search of Cohen found him to be in possession of one and a half grams of methamphetamine.
Both were arrested at the scene and booked into the Humboldt County jail.
Quenell said deputies also found evidence in the building indicating Baldridge had another apartment in town, located in the 2400 block of Eye Street. When deputies searched that residence, they reported finding another 20 pounds of processed marijuana buds, three large plastic garbage bags full of trimmed marijuana leaves and two handguns, one of which had been reported stolen in Eureka.
It appeared that Baldridge was living primarily at the Eye Street residence, Quenell said, and “working” at Unauthorized Art.
Started some years back, Unauthorized Art was billed as offering for-rent studio space to local artists, from glass blowers and sculptors to musicians and painters. Local bands would sometimes pool their funds together to rent a studio, where they’d store instruments and gather for practices and, sometimes, parties.
”We love art and music,” Unauthorized Art posted as a description of itself on its Facebook page. “We love to share that with our community.”
Quenell said it’s unclear how long the marijuana business had been operating out of the Unauthorized Art building. He said the investigation is ongoing, and that deputies are continuing to follow up leads uncovered during Wednesday’s search.
Sheriff’s Office Lt. Steve Knight said Wednesday’s bust would not have been possible without the crime tip line or the Community Response Unit.
”The tip line is working,” Knight said Wednesday, adding that it gives residents a way to anonymously report things going on in their neighborhoods, whether it be abandoned vehicles, illegal dumping or drug houses.
Then, it’s generally the Community Response Unit’s job to follow up on the calls and work to root out neighborhood problems.
”We deal with everything,” Quenell said. As the investigation continued Wednesday, Baldridge was booked into the Humboldt County jail on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm, possessing marijuana for sale, cultivating marijuana, possessing concentrated cannabis, possessing a switchblade knife, possessing stolen property and maintaining a drug house.
The sheriff’s office asks that anyone with information regarding the case or criminal activity call 445-7251 or the crime tip line at 268-2539. The Humboldt County Drug Task Force, which assisted with Wednesday’s bust, can be reached at 444-8095.
Acting on a tip Wednesday, Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies searched the Unauthorized Art building on Alder Grove Road in Arcata and reported finding 200 pounds of processed marijuana, a portion of which is shown here. The sheriff’s office estimated the street value of the seized pot to be $400,000.