A massive drug bust in California saw authorities seize over 16 tons of marijuana worth $1.19 billion. The operation by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department lasted ten days and is the largest seizure and destruction of an illegal marijuana operation in the department's history.
According to CBS News, 22 felony arrests, 109 misdemeanors and 19 arrests related to water theft stemmed from the sting operation. It spanned over 200 locations according to search warrants served to the addresses and collected over 350,000 plants, 33,480 pounds harvested, 65 vehicles, 180 animals and $28,000 in cash. The bust is reported to be connected to drug cartels.
Major Joint-Operation underway in the High Desert to take down Illegal Cartel Operated Marijuana Groves impacting farmers, families, and businesses. We have teamed up with the @usarmy @deahq @vcsheriff @kernsheriff @seblasd to eradicate these illegal Marijuana groves. pic.twitter.com/y21yWExTT9— Alex Villanueva (@LACoSheriff) June 8, 2021
"We're talking about the cartels," Mayor Rex Parris of Lancaster, California, said. "We are not talking about mom and pop people selling marijuana that they grew in their backyard. This is the cartels. We are very very close to driving down the freeway and seeing bodies hanging from the overpasses. That is what's coming."
The startling description from the mayor echoes sights from towns in Mexico, though it is unclear exactly how factual the statement could be. Not everybody celebrated the seizure, with some questioning why it was considered illegal despite the status of cannabis in the state.
"This must be like a modern day *moonshine* bust. I thought marijuana was legal in Cali?" one critic wrote on social media. "Oh, it wasn't delivered to a licensed mj store to jack up prices." Another added, "Honestly this is insane. Make them pay for a cultivator license and water usage. Stop arresting people for plants."
Officials seized more than 16 tons of harvested marijuana from illegal grows in the Antelope Valley area last month in what L.A. County Sheriff's Department officials called a "historic" bust https://t.co/PUNrZeRuq7— KTLA (@KTLA) July 7, 2021
California legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2018, though that hasn't curbed the rise of "illegal" cultivation efforts. LA County Sheriff's Narcotic Bureau detectives noted that over 500 illegal operations were found in 2021, over three times the amount in 2020.
"What we want to do is send a clear and loud message to the cartels and anyone doing an illegal operation in the high desert: Your days are over and we're coming for you," Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said according to CBS News.