Monterey County Struggles With a Resilient Black Market for Weed

In August, officers from the California Highway Patrol and the Monterey County Sheriff's Office SWAT team discovered a large, illegal marijuana grow in Big Sur. The discovery came after a tree service inspector ran over a booby trap that was apparently placed in the road by men working on the illegal grow. As it turns out, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Since Det. Sgt. David Vargas began leading the Monterey County Sheriff’s cannabis unit seven months ago, he’s seen about one to two raids per week. It comes out to more than 31,000 plants and 3,500 pounds of processed weed confiscated. The total street value: $34.5 million or more.

“We are just scratching the surface,” Vargas told the Monterey County Weekly. “Maybe we are hitting 10 to 20 percent of the illegal market.” 

It’s a lot to keep up with, but doing so is paramount. Sheriff’s officials say these illegal practices are severely undercutting the legal market, harming the environment, and potentially putting innocent residents in harm’s way.


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