The Northeast division of the Los Angeles Police Department busted a major marijuana growing operation Wednesday estimated to be worth some $3 million.
The marijuana was being grown in a warehouse at 1844 Cypress Ave. in Glassell Park, two blocks from Sonia Sotomayor High School on 2050 N. San Fernando Road, Capt. Bill Murphy, the commanding officer of the Northeast community station, told Patch Thursday.
“You could hit Sotomayor with a rock” from the warehouse, Murphy said, adding that there were about 650 cannabis plants in the warehouse. “We’re estimating about $3 million in marijuana and about half-a-million dollars in equipment,” he said.
The warehouse is located about a two-mile driving distance from the Northeast station on 3353 N. San Fernando Rd.
A detective who was part of the operation said police found 24 people at the warehouse and that one of them, the alleged kingpin of the pot grow, has been arrested.
The name of the alleged leader of the operation is being withheld, pending investigation into the case. But Murphy did say that the man is a resident of Los Angeles—not a gang member—and that most of the other people found at the warehouse were laborers who were harvesting marijuana buds.
The LAPD acted on information from a member of the public who pointed out that he smelled a strong odor of marijuana from the warehouse, the detective said, adding that the Northeast narcotics unit obtained a search warrant and raided the warehouse at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Several students at Sotomayor School waiting for a bus outside the warehouse Thursday told Patch they had long smelled a suspicious odor from the place. A sign outside the warehouse read, “S.T. Int’l Supply.”
Murphy said the Northeast police station has seen an increase lately in marijuana grows, referring partly to a similar operation that the Glendale Police Department busted in June 2012, just a block from the Northeast station in Los Angeles territory.
“We have in the last few years taken down huge—huge—grows,” Murphy said. “And they’re right around here in the neighborhoods, in warehouses or business buildings.”
Murphy acknowledged that the Northeast station was criticized for not taking action against the marijuana grow a block away in 2012. “The reality is we also took one [grow] down here three months before that thing happened,” he said, adding that the Northeast police station was tipped off by the public about the growing operation a block away and the Glendale P.D. followed up and made the arrest.
“Sadly, I am pretty sure there are probably others out there—we just don’t know about them right now,” Murphy said, adding: “And so the message to the public is that usually for a big grow the location is a business—in a house, it would smell too much and neighbors would smell it. But if anybody comes across something that looks weird—either weird behavior in which you see people going in and out [of a building] with equipment and it seems like it’s chemical type of equipment, or it’s a warehouse that had windows but now the windows are all blacked out, these are indicators about grows. Please tell us so that we can do follow-ups.”
But where does the marijuana from such growing operations end up?
“What’s probably happening is that a whole bunch of the marijuana grown ends up getting sold to medical marijuana dispensaries, although that would be illegal,” Murphy said. “The way the [medical marijuana] laws were written, they never really explained in detail who would grow it and who would sell it—that’s why medical marijuana was a problem.”
Added Murphy: “I wish it were much more detailed—that an ex-gang member or an ex-felon can’t sell this [marijuana] and that it should be sold at CVS pharmacy. That’s what I wish. That didn’t happen.”