A full three years into legalized adult-use cannabis sales in California—Los Angeles County police are ramping up cannabis busts. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported that they busted “the largest operation in the history of the Sheriff’s Department” on June 8.
Law enforcement officials tracked down, identified and destroyed 70-80 tented, greenhouse operations filled with cannabis crops in the open desert, in an area in Unincorporated Lancaster just north of Los Angeles in Antelope Valley, California. Unincorporated Lancaster falls under the county’s jurisdiction. The cultivation operations are suspected to be the work of cartel members.
Bulldozers raided the area, leveling the operations. Officials expect to find hundreds more. One tented operation was valued by police at approximately $50 million worth of product. Sheriff Alex Villanueva launched an operation with up to 500 of his deputies to cooperate with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and hunt down and destroy more illegal cannabis grow operations.
“The origins of the sheriff’s department date back to 1850, when this was the Wild West,” Villanueva told Fox News. “And we introduced law and order back in those days. Now, come 2021, we’re going to have to redo the same concept. We’re going to reintroduce this law and order and make sure we drive these people out of business and give this community back to the residents.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported that law enforcement officers scooped up approximately 3,800 cannabis plants—which were seized and destroyed, beginning on May 4. During the event, a suspect was taken into custody for the illegal cultivation of cannabis under a warrant.
Five men at the scene of the raid were taken into department custody, adding to the total number of recent arrests. “We’ve made 23 arrests, seized five firearms, and are now measuring by the tons,” said Sheriff Alex Villanueva during the press conference. “One site has 74 greenhouses of marijuana; another property has $50 million worth, which is getting bulldozed as we speak.”
The Los Angeles County Office of Cannabis Management handles legal cannabis operations outside of the City of Los Angeles, which is regulated separately. Legal cannabis operations go through a rigorous and expensive process of approvals before they can grow cannabis.