The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department says it seized an estimated $1.193 billion worth of cannabis plants during the agency’s largest marijuana eradication operation.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced the results of the multi-agency operation on Wednesday. It began on June 8 and last 10 days.
The department says its narcotics bureau detectives identified 150 illegal outdoor marijuana grows in the Antelope Valley last year. And this year, investigators identified more than 500 illegal cannabis grows during reconnaissance flights.
During the drug bust, the department says it seized about $28,000 in cash, 33,480 pounds of harvested marijuana, 33 firearms, and 65 vehicles, including two water trucks.
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
Along with the seizures, authorities made a total of 131 arrests.
The department says violent crime has been directly linked to the grow sites, including multiple murders and threats made against residents living in the area.
The activity at the grow sites has also reportedly threatened the environment and wildlife. The department says growers have used banned pesticides and fertilizers for their illegal crops, which have been attributed to the deaths of at least two bears.
Water theft has also occurred and has threatened the water supply for some residents in the valley, according to the department. The theft reportedly occurred from fire hydrants and unpermitted water wells that were being drilled on the grow sites.
“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,” said DEA Associate Special Agent in Charge Curt Fallin. “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.”
“What we want to do is send a clear and loud message to all the cartels and anyone doing illegal operations in the high desert, ‘your days here are over and we’re coming for you,’” said Sheriff Villanueva.