This week, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), the California National Guard Counterdrug Task Force, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted a joint operation to take down multiple illegal marijuana grows in the Antelope Valley.
In the first four months of 2022, the Marijuana Eradication Team (MET) had served 116 marijuana cultivation-related search warrants. One-hundred seven people were arrested, 100 were misdemeanors, and seven were felony arrests. Approximately 101,090 marijuana plants were seized, 53 firearms were confiscated, and 14,980 pounds of harvested marijuana were destroyed.
Sheriff’s narcotics investigators have conducted aerial reconnaissance with the California National Guard Counterdrug Task Force in identifying 350 outdoor cultivation sites in the Antelope Valley, down from over 750 locations in 2021.
MET investigators served search warrants at 80 percent of the identified sites and anticipate they will have 100-percent eradicated by the end of the fall. Most of these sites are connected to Mexican Cartels, Asian organized crime, and other organized crime groups. These illegal cultivation sites threaten the safety of communities, the environment, and wildlife. The unpermitted water wells being drilled to water the illegal crops affect underground aquifers.
“We’ve already identified the problems that this causes here in the Antelope Valley. Downstream, illegal cannabis dispensaries in the basin are a source of extreme amounts of violence,” said Sheriff Alex Villanueva. “You have robberies, you have murders that we’re handling. Illegal dispensaries outnumber the legal ones 50 to 1. That will give you the size of the magnitude of the problem that we’re handling right here.”
“To any of those who are engaged in the illicit grows, I want you to know that there is a collective effort, and we’re coming after you,” said Assemblymember Tom Lackey (36th District). “You can see, right here in these trailers, where your product is going to end up, and it’s not going to be on our streets.”