Organized illegal pot grows busted throughout county

Illegal growers include long list of Chinese nationals

Law enforcement authorities carried out numerous search warrants throughout Grays Harbor, Thurston, and King counties on Tuesday, Nov. 28, in connection with suspected illegal marijuana grown operations, according to a press release from Steve Shumate, chief criminal deputy for the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office.

The grow operations, which are believed by authorities to be connected, involved the purchase of homes, often with cash, by Chinese nationals suspected of involvement in organized crime.

The investigation began when citizens reported possible illegal marijuana grows in an outlying area of Elma. Similar complaints were later received from citizens in McCleary, Aberdeen and Hoquiam.

The search warrants were overseen by the Grays Harbor County Drug Task Force, but the operation involved personnel from dozens of local, county and state agencies.

Although marijuana production, processing and retail sales are legal in the state, the grow operations on which the warrants were conducted had none of the required licenses and in some cases were set up in restricted zones, such as close to school facilities.

When The Vidette went to press, authorities were still on the scenes of where the searches had been carried out to conduct further processing and to remove and destroy illegal marijuana.