The largest recorded marijuana bust in Santa Barbara County history took place this past Tuesday, when the Sheriff’s Dept. discovered over 100,000 plants on a private ranch near Lompoc.
Sgt. Erik Raney, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. Public Information officer, said deputies discovered the marijuana plants unexpectedly.
“We found it from our helicopters being in the area on an unrelated call,” Raney said.
The marijuana grove, which is located near Lompoc on both sides of Highway 1, is currently being extracted from the land, he said.
“We got officers in there yesterday and started hacking marijuana,” Raney said. “We worked yesterday, we’re working today and we’ll be working tomorrow.”
Raney said 40,000 plants were removed Tuesday and 45,000 plants were removed yesterday. Today, officers will begin exhuming plants from the other side of the highway, which Raney said could add 50,000 plants to the total.
All together, the busted marijuana grove has an estimated value of close to $160 million.
Thus far, the Sheriff’s Dept. has yet to make an arrest or develop a list of suspects. Raney said the owners of the ranches are not considered suspects as the ranches span hundreds of acres, most of which are never visited by the owners themselves.
He also said it was common to find illegal marijuana operations in large fields such as the private Lompoc ranches.
“Typical marijuana growers either grow in public places such as national forests or private properties where they think nobody will suspect them,” Raney said.
The second largest marijuana bust in the county occurred earlier this summer off Highway 166, near Twitchwell Reservoir. Raney said officers exhumed 61,000 marijuana plants.
“We’ve already surpassed that number, and we haven’t even added tomorrow’s count,” Raney said.