Authorities seize marijuana, weapons from illegal grows
EPHRATA — A two-month crackdown on illegal marijuana grows yielded thousands of pounds of pot, cash and weapons.
The Grant County Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team investigation resulted in 24 arrests and the seizure of more than 41,000 pounds of marijuana, $55,000 in cash and 56 illegal guns and a large amount of ammunition, according to a sheriff’s office press release. Also seized were numerous vehicles and large quantities of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides.
Sheriff Tom Jones said the campaign removed criminals associated with operating and guarding the marijuana grows.
“These operators are often guarding their grows with illegal or stolen firearms, some of them fully automatic assault rifles and sub-machine guns, as well as using manufacturing processes involving hazardous quantities of chemicals that pose a genuine health and safety risk to the communities around them,” Jones said.
Grow operations were busted in several Grant County cities, and warrants were served in Adams and Franklin counties.
Investigators also uncovered a new tactic during the operation: Illegal growers leased land from unsuspecting property owners by using fabricated documents to pose as legal growers, according to the release.
“It’s important for our landowners to understand that more due diligence is needed on their part,” Jones said. “With the legalization of marijuana in Washington State, the former illegal grows hidden in the hills are now down in our communities but with no less criminal intent.”
The Narcotics Team coordinated the operation, which included the Washington State Patrol Marijuana Eradication Team, Moses Lake Police Department Tactical Response Team, Ephrata Police, Soap Lake Police, Adams County Sheriff’s Office, Tri-Cities Regional SWAT, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office; Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Army 10th Civil Support Unit, Washington State Department of Ecology, and anonymous tipsters to the CRIMETIPS line.
Pete O’Cain, Wenatchee World