Los Angeles County law enforcement said Wednesday they have seized $1 billion worth of illegal marijuana in the largest such effort in Los Angeles County history.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva held a morning news conference to discuss details of a recent 10-day operation, reports the Associated Press. The sheriff said his department seized 373,000 marijuana plants and 33,480 pounds (15,186 kilograms) of harvested Cannabis. He said the estimated street value is nearly $1.2 billion.
Authorities last month launched a massive raid in the Mojave Desert area. Deputies raided what they called illegal marijuana farms. These untaxed operations may be connected to drug cartels. At least that’s what the cops say.
That raid led to 23 arrests and the seizure of millions of dollars’ worth of weed. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department history claimed it was the largest such operation in its history. Cops seized upwards of 70 greenhouses at one location. They estimated their street value at $50 million.
Deputies identified about 150 illegal marijuana growing areas in the Antelope Valley area last year. They found about 500 more this year, the Sheriff said.
On Tuesday Rep. Mike Garcia, who represents the area in Congress, said he saw many illegal greenhouses by helicopter.
Garcia said he saw “hundreds, if not thousands, of these illegal nurseries.”
About nine out of 10 people working these farms are indentured servants, Garcia said.
“They’re stealing our water, in many cases they’re squatting on our land. I want to be very clear that these are not mom and pop or legal operations that we are fighting.”
Consumers Looking For Cheaper Weed
California voters broadly legalized recreational marijuana sales in January 2018. But the black market continues to thrive. This is in large part because California’s (some would say excessive) legal marijuana taxes send consumers looking for cheaper weed.
Authorities last month launched a massive raid on what they said were illegal marijuana farms in Antelope Valley. Law enforcement, again, claimed drug cartels control the operations.
Law enforcement raids have discovered tons of untaxed Cannabis this year in rural Southern California areas.
Authorities say the grows in remote areas can harm the environment by using banned pesticides and hazardous chemicals. They add that those chemicals can pollute streams and ground water supplies.
Growers also steal millions of gallons of water with illegal wells, according to cops. They also take it under cover of night from wells maintained by local alfalfa, potato and carrot farmers, authorities said.
Federal, state and local officials also attended the news conference. Attending with the sheriff were Rex Parris, mayor of Lancaster in the Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles.