$80 million worth of pot seized, Chinese Nationals suspected in illegal grow operations

Investigators said 44 people were arrested on Tuesday during a multi-county raid in Washington State on suspected illegal grow operations involving Chinese Nationals. Detectives also seized 32,449 marijuana plants, worth more than $80,000,000 along with $400,000 worth of cash and gold. More than two dozen vehicles and multiple guns and other items of value were also confiscated. (Photo: Grays Harbor County Sheriff)

GRAYS HARBOR COUNTY, Wash. (KOMO) - Detectives said 32,449 marijuana plants with an estimated value of more than $80 million were seized during a multi-county raid in Washington State on Tuesday that uncovered a huge illegal pot-growing operation involving Chinese Nationals.

According to the Grays Harbor County Drug Task Force, a total of 50 search warrants were carried out including 38 in Grays Harbor County, eight in King County and four in Thurston County.

Detectives said 44 people were arrested during the operation. They also seized $400,000 worth of cash and gold along with more than two dozen vehicles, multiple guns and other items of value.

The Grays Harbor County Drug Task Force oversaw the operation, which began earlier this year when several residents reported possible illegal marijuana grows near Elma.

Later in the year, McCleary, Aberdeen and Hoquiam Police received similar complaints.

Grays Harbor County Sheriff's Deputies and Police detectives then identified several possible locations of the suspected illegal grow operations.

The Drug Task Force took over the investigation in August and learned several homes had been purchased for the purpose of setting up the illegal marijuana grows.

Detectives said they found the majority of the homes were purchased with cash by Chinese Nationals involved in organized crime, and profits from the illegal grows appeared to be funding other criminal enterprises. They said those investigations are still ongoing.

Voters legalized marijuana in Washington State in 2012. However, producers, processors and retailers are required by law to be licensed by the state and must follow strict guidelines.

Investigators said the search warrants conducted on Tuesday involved marijuana grows that were operating without proper licenses and in some cases were set up in restricted areas, such as near schools.

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