(HorizonPost.com) – Los Angeles police were celebrating their largest-ever marijuana bust on Wednesday, July 7, when cops seized 16 tons of the drug after a month-long operation. The county sheriff says this is a result with huge implications targeted at international cartels.
Legalization Fueled Drug Trade
California legalized recreational marijuana in 2017, following a controversial ballot. One justification for the move was that legalizing the drug would take away demand for illegal supplies – but, instead, it sparked a huge expansion of the trade.
Early this year, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) carried out reconnaissance flights around the county and managed to identify hundreds of illegal marijuana farms. Plotting these on a map of criminality revealed that at least three homicides were connected to the farms, along with several cases of armed intimidation by suspected drug growers.
Drug organizations were also stealing vast quantities of water to grow their crops in the high desert areas. A DEA agent involved in the operation estimated that illegal marijuana farms in the Los Angeles area used 5.4 million gallons of water every day. These illegal farms seriously impact surrounding communities, and they’re growing in both numbers and size. Last year, cops estimated 150 farms, with an average of eight greenhouses each; this year’s surveillance program identified more than 500 farms, with an average of 15 greenhouses each, over a six-fold increase in greenhouses.
On June 8, the LASD put its intelligence to use and started moving against the growers. The operation involved over 400 cops and DEA agents and netted a massive haul of drugs and other assets, leading to 22 felony arrests. By the end of the series of raids, cops had seized:
- 33,480 pounds of harvested marijuana
- 375,000 marijuana plants
- 65 vehicles
- 180 animals
- $28,000 in cash
Cops: “This Is Cartels”
Police say this isn’t “mom and pop” marijuana farmers selling what they grow in their yard: It’s international criminal gangs. Mayor Rex Parris of Lancaster, CA, said on July 7, “This is the cartels.” He described a scenario where soon, residents could see bodies hanging from overpasses. “That is what’s coming.” Mexican and South American drug cartels are notoriously violent and involved in human trafficking, including illegal immigration.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva had a strong message for the cartels: “Your days are over, and we’re coming for you,” he said. This operation has certainly dented the illegal marijuana industry; now, California’s police have to keep up the pressure.
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