California – Alameda County officials announced Wednesday, Sept. 29, that it had cracked down on the biggest illegal cannabis grow operations in Bay Area, California in history.
Alameda County sheriff’s detectives said they seized 10 million in cash, up to 500,000 marijuana plants, 6 tons of processed marijuana of $42 million’s worth along a collection of weapons, according to Fox5.
The complicated investigation took officials 18 months to take grasp of the system, which is also dubbed some of the largest seizures in the state.
“The enormity and complexity of this illegal grow operation cannot be expressed in words or pictures, it’s unbelievable,” sheriff’s officials said, per San Francisco Chronicle.
The deputies executed over a dozen search warrants at 18 different sites in Oakland, Hayward, Castro Valley, and San Leandro. The confiscated marijuana was said to be of the best quality officials have ever seen.
Sgt. Ray Kelly, spokesman for the department said the illegal operation took up a total of 500,000 square feet of commercial real estate. Fox5 noted the value for such a massive business space in the Bay Area is some million dollars per month.
The facility was also lavishly equipped with corporate-style furniture, break rooms, in addition to refrigerators with thousand-dollar bottles of wine, televisions, and vending machines, Kelly said.
Authorities also found dozens of weapons, including handguns, rifles, and shotguns.
They detained at least seven key individuals behind the operation. But Kelley said they may be able to get out soon over financial power.
“I’m sure they’ll bail out because they have millions of dollars to post bail,” Kelly said.
Although the selling of cannabis is legally permitted, it is extensively taxed and regulated. Producers and sellers who avoid the legal system may be withholding tax money from the public, harming the environment, and putting people’s health at risk with untested products.
“This is not legal. This does not meet the thresholds and guidelines as prescribed by the state of California,” Kelly said when asked about law enforcement destroying all the marijuana they seized.
“I don’t think that we would take on the liability of vouching for this cannabis and wanting it to go into our community. So it needs to be destroyed. The courts have agreed and have ordered it to be so,” he added.
San Francisco Chronicle reported that Kelly said the operation was too massive that it had to generate more electricity for the plants. Considering the amount of power and illegal wiring required to care for the crops, each structure also constituted a significant fire risk.
The system had a negative environmental impact too, as the spokesman noted fertilizers and other chemicals were being poured into the drainage system.
The crime ring had some legal business contacts with local dispensaries, according to Kelly, but the official company appeared to be a front for the underworld operation.