Law enforcement busted large-scale illegal marijuana grow operations near Shelton and Lacey on Monday.
The Mason County Sheriff’s Office served warrants along with the Washington State Patrol and the state Department of Ecology, according to a Wednesday social media post announcing the busts.
The criminal operations were run by organized “Chinese nationals” who were shipping the marijuana to the East Coast to be sold at higher prices, according to the Mason Sheriff’s Office.
Profits from the sales are used to support other criminal activity, the Sheriff’s Office post says. An investigation into the activity in Mason and Thurston counties is still ongoing.
Similar operations have taken place in Washington state since 2017 when nearly 50 warrants were served by the Grays Harbor Drug Task Force, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Other states such as Colorado, Texas and California also have seen similar organized operations.
Chief Criminal Deputy Ryan Spurling told The Olympian Thursday that these investigations often start with tips from the public. “They know what’s going on in their neighborhood,” Spurling said. “They know what’s normal and when they see something out of normal, it’s great they report it.”
The Olympian has requested more information on the busts and any arrests from the Mason County Sheriff’s Office.
The Sheriff’s Office listed several health and safety concerns posed by illegal marijuana grow operations in its post. Such activity often involves converting residential homes into grow rooms with ventilation and filters to mask the odor.
Water and chemicals are often stored near exposed electrical wires that run to overloaded breaker boxes and heat producing items such as grow lamps and heaters, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The chemicals are dumped into septic and sewer systems that can drain into ground water near wetlands and waterways, the post added.
Mold also tends to grow in homes with these operations and is expelled outside through ventilation systems. Cleaning these homes can cost thousands of dollars, according to the Sheriff’s Office.