Marijuana Worth $1.2B Seized in Huge Drug Bust in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department carried out the largest marijuana bust in its history, after seizing more than 33,000 pounds of the drug with a street value of almost $1.2 billion.

The large scale operation was conducted over the course of 10 days in Antelope Valley and involved more than 400 officials from the sheriff's office, Drug Enforcement Administration, California National Guard and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as other local, state and federal agencies.

As a result of the Marijuana Eradication Operation, 131 people were arrested, a total of 33,480 pounds of harvested marijuana was seized, 30 marijuana growing locations were demolished and 33 firearms were recovered.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva said during a press conference that 180 animals were also rescued from the illegal marijuana grows and that $28,000 dollars, described as a day's payroll for those at the illegal farming area, were seized. Plants with a street value of $1.19 billion were also destroyed.

"Many of these grows have been directly tied to Mexican drug trafficking organizations and Asian and Armenian organized crime groups," Villanueva said.

The sites where the drug is grown are directly linked to violent crime in California, he added.

In July 2020, the bodies of two murder victims were discovered adjacent to an illegal marijuana growing site in Lancaster. Another person was also found buried in the desert near Lake Los Angeles in March 2021, with those accused of killing the victim operating an illegal marijuana plot in the area.

Apart from its links to crime, officials described how growing marijuana can have a detrimental effect on the environment due to the millions of gallons of water required. Water is often stolen from hydrants and unpermitted wells are drilled on the sites.

Growers consistently use banned pesticides and fertilizers for the plants. Villanueva said that two bears were found dead in the area and that's been linked to pesticide use.

"The threat to the environment and wildlife cannot begin to be calculated as growers consistently use banned pessimal sites, and they're also being stole from the farmers themselves," Villanueva said.

"Calculations estimate approximately 150 million gallons of water was utilized to bring the plants to harvest—and that is just one harvest, there are four harvests a year, so do the math there."

In a statement, DEA Associate Special Agent in Charge Curt Fallin added: "Most Californians would be shocked and disappointed at the amount of water these unlicensed, illegal grows are using, especially as California suffers from a drought.

"By our calculation, the illegal grows in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties require an astounding 5.4 million gallons of water a day, every day."

The names of the suspects or the charges they face haven't been released. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has been contacted for an update.

marijuana bust
As result of this operation, a total of 131 arrests were made and 33,480 pounds of harvested marijuana were seized. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department