The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) and the Washington State Patrol (WSP) Marijuana Enforcement Team arrested one man and secured a large number of marijuana plants, as well as firearms, from a grow operation in the 100 block of Carroll Way near Adna Thursday afternoon.
Between the main residence, a detached garage and a pole barn on the property, law enforcement located approximately 1,250 growing marijuana plants, 32 vacuum sealed bags containing approximately 1 pound of processed marijuana total and several dry-hanging marijuana plants, according to court documents. Law enforcement also located a 9 mm Glock pistol and a multi-caliber Wilson Combat AR-style rifle in a bedroom closet, as well as a money counter and several documents with the property owners’ names — Huagui Chen and Yalian Fan.
Chen, 58, of Chehalis, was present at the property when law enforcement arrived with the search warrant on Thursday. He exited the residence willingly and was detained, according to court documents.
“We know that there are other grow operations in our communities and we’ll go after each one of them,” Sheriff Rob Snaza told The Chronicle at the scene on Thursday. “Marijuana growing is not legal unless you have permits and licensing and people work very hard to get those permits and licenses and unfortunately these folks did not do that.”
“As the sheriff said, these are becoming more and more common in our community and it is a way to get around the lawful business and a lot of the marijuana that comes from these is being sent back to states where it's not lawful,” Field Operations Bureau Chief Dustin Breen said Thursday. “Luckily, we were able to execute the search warrant and everybody’s safe and everything went as planned.”
A WSP detective surveilling the property on April 18 reportedly “smelled the odor of green growing marijuana” coming from buildings on the property and a LCSO detective subsequently requested electrical and subscriber records for the property from the Lewis County Public Utility District (PUD), according to court documents.
The PUD records showed the current property owners have an average monthly usage rate of 6,024 kilowatt-hours (kwh) for the house and garage and 4,574 kwh for a pole barn on the property. The property’s previous owners had had an average monthly usage rate of 664 kwh for the house and garage and 476 kwh for the pole barn from January 2019 through June 2021.
Inquiries with the state Liquor and Cannabis Control Board and the federal Department of Agriculture determined neither Chen nor Fan had permits or licenses to manufacture marijuana in Washington, according to court documents.
Investigators then applied for a search warrant, which was approved by Lewis County District Court Judge Wade Samuelson.
“We are continuing the investigation and information will be forthcoming, but we do have enough resources out here and our partnerships with State Patrol and other agencies that led us to this investigation,” Snaza said Thursday.
Regarding the firearms found at the residence and the reason why officers were wearing tactical gear while searching the property, Snaza said, “It just goes to show you that although people downplay illegal grow operations as just nothing violent or anything, the reason is my questioning would be why do you have these firearms and you’re having a large grow operation and probably what you’re doing is protecting your grow. That’s why you see all these men and women out here doing their job and they’re going in there in their tactical equipment to make sure everybody’s safe.”
Chen was booked into the Lewis County Jail just before 4:10 p.m. on Thursday. He has since been charged in Lewis County Superior Court with one count each of manufacture of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to manufacture or deliver and unlawful use of a building for drug purposes.
He was scheduled to appear in Lewis County Superior Court for a preliminary hearing on felony charges Friday afternoon.
Charges had not been filed against Fan as of Friday morning.