Spanish politician arrested for alleged underground marijuana operation

A Spanish politician from the conservative Popular Party (PP) resigned Thursday after being arrested on charges of running an underground marijuana-growing operation.

Manuel Palma, deputy mayor of the City Council of El Valle in the southern Spanish province of Granada, stepped down nearly two weeks after he was arrested by police. In early July, officers discovered 256 marijuana plants inside a house in El Padul, a city 15 minutes away from El Valle.

Palma, who also resigned as councilor for youth and athletics in El Valle, maintained in a statement released by the PP that he is innocent of the charges. He added that he decided to resign so as to not “hurt the Popular Party name or my colleagues at El Valle council.”

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Manuel Palma in an election poster for the Popular Party.

Manuel Palma in an election poster for the Popular Party.

Spanish authorities issued a press release 10 days ago stating they had arrested two men in a house with two rooms arranged to grow marijuana. However, they did not publicly identify the suspects until Spanish magazine Ideal revealed Wednesday that one of the men was the deputy mayor of El Valle, home to roughly 1,200 people.

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The marijuana plantation alleged to belong to Manuel Palma.

The marijuana plantation alleged to belong to Manuel Palma.

Mayor of El Valle Benjamín Ortega, who took office on June 15, refused to ask for Palma’s resignation, arguing that he would wait for more compelling evidence in the criminal investigation.

It was instead the Granada branch of the PP that forced Palma to resign as deputy mayor. Ortega told Spanish daily newspaper El País that the situation in the city council has now “returned to normal.”

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In the press release, the Popular Party in Granada “applauded” Palma’s decision to step down and said the party’s door would be “open” to him, “once the situation has been favorably resolved.”

Fox News' Morgan Cheung contributed to this report.