An enormous, illicit marijuana grow operation was discovered in southern Oregon last week in what local authorities are describing as an unprecedented bust.
The operation was found last Wednesday near the town of Klamath Falls, Oregon, where deputies reportedly stumbled upon a “27,000-square-foot potato shed” south of the town.
The potato shed, according to the Herald and News newspaper, was “filled with marijuana in various stages of processing: drying in giant strands that stretched from the roof to the floor, buds pruned and stuffed into 40-pound bags, hundreds of those bags stacked against a wall and years of discarded marijuana waste in piles ready for disposal.”
Authorities believe the value of the marijuana discovered inside the shed likely eclipses $100 million in street value.
The newspaper noted that Chris Klaber, sheriff of Klamath County, Oregon, said “he had never seen anything like it in 30 years of police work,” and that the operation “wouldn’t have been found if a single car hadn’t thrown up enough dust that a neighbor mistook it for a wisp of smoke.”
Fire crews and deputies from Klamath County responded to a call on Wednesday about “possible smoke in the area,” the Herald and News reported, adding that deputies “noticed the back of a nearby building was open and they could clearly see marijuana inside” and “there was more of it than any of them had ever seen before.”
According to the Associated Press, the Klamath County sheriff’s office executed its search warrant on Thursday, the day after making the discovery. People on the scene were interviewed, but no arrests were made, the Associated Press reported, adding that the building contained cots where workers slept.
The Herald and News said that most of the people interviewed on the scene did not speak English, “and many soon drifted from the scene.”
Kaber told the newspaper that the “raid on the potato shed led detectives to two other grow operations that were linked to the processing facility, where they found more marijuana and processing equipment,” and that all three sites “were linked by land ownership, lease agreements and by heavy equipment rentals to multiple locations taken out under a single name.”
“I’ve had to completely readjust my sense of where we are in fighting illegal marijuana production in Klamath,” Klaber said, as quoted by the Herald and News. “I didn’t think we were this far behind.”
“This really is—and I’ve said it before—organized criminal activity,” Kaber continued. “This definitely fits the definition in Oregon of what organized criminal activity is.”
It marks the second significant bust of a southern Oregon marijuana grow operation in the last few months.
In late August, the sheriff’s department in Josephine County, Oregon raided a cannabis ranch that was suspected of being a hub for various illicit activity, including human trafficking.
Jefferson Public Radio reported at the time that the raid was “part of a larger investigation that began with the death of a man from a different illegal marijuana farm.”
Around 250 law enforcement officers participated in the raid of the more than 1,300 acre property, resulting in the confiscation of $140,000 in cash. Authorities also destroyed more than 70,000 pounds of marijuana, 6,000 pounds of processed weed and nearly 400 greenhouses.
Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel believed the operation bore the hallmarks of a cartel.
“We’ve heard of the threat of harm to your family if you don’t go with us,” Daniel said at the time. “And then they are transported up to the location. From what we are understanding, these workers are not paid until the end of the year when the shipment goes out and the money is brought in. There’s not, like, a weekly payroll going on here.”