More than 100,000 cannabis plants were seized in California, in what police are calling the “largest illegal marijuana grow in Bay Area history.”
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that detectives executed “over a dozen” search warrants across the Bay Area and took down “one of the largest illegal grow operations in the state.”
According to the Facebook post, the sheriff’s office estimated that “over 100,000 plants and upwards of $10,000,000 in cash,” were seized during the operation.
“In addition, there are millions of dollars in infrastructure, equipment, lighting, generators and supplies used to facilitate the grows,” the Facebook post said. “The enormity and complexity of this illegal grow operation cannot be expressed in words or pictures, it’s unbelievable.”
In another video posted to Facebook, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office officials can be seen using a motorized trimmer to cut down the marijuana plants.
“We had to get innovative and use gas powered trimmers or we would be here for a week,” the post said.
While speaking with Newsweek on Thursday, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Ray Kelly explained that the seizure of the plants and cash on Wednesday came after an 18-month long investigation.
The investigation was started by narcotics detectives with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, after the received a tip of an illegal marijuana growing operation.
Kelly told Newsweek that detectives executed search warrants at 18 different located on Wednesday.
While the initial Facebook post said that officials seized “over 100,000 plants,” while speaking with Newsweek, Kelly said that the number could be “up to half a million.”
“We’ve seized 12,000 pounds of processed, harvested marijuana product ready to go to sale,” Kelly said, adding that dozens of Rolex watches and other jewelry items were also seized during the operation.
While recreational marijuana use and possession is legal in California, under the state’s law, residents are only allowed to grow up to six plants.
Kelly told Newsweek that Californians also have to be approved to grow marijuana plants by the state and local government.
“These people are not doing that,” Kelly said in regard to being approved to grow marijuana. “They’re operating similar to 1920’s Bootlegging operation. They’re very sophisticated, very organized. They’ve invested millions of dollars in their infrastructure. We estimate they have somewhere near half a million square feet of real estate grow space that they use.”
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has arrested at least seven individuals in connection with the illegal grow operation, according to Kelly, who noted that more arrests could be made in the coming days.
“The environmental impact that these locations cause is concerning. We’re talking about fertilizers, chemicals, chemicals known to cause cancer,” Kelly told Newsweek.