Raid at Santa Cruz Mountains grow site uncovers $1.6M worth of pot

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU and wires) - A raid Thursday morning at an illegal marijuana grow in the Santa Cruz Mountains led to the discovery of hundreds of plants valued at more than $1.6 million, a Santa Clara County sheriff's spokesman said.

Around 7 a.m., deputies executed a search warrant at a private, rural property on Loma Chiquita Road near Loma Prieta Road, sheriff's Sgt. James Jensen said.

Five people were arrested and face charges for cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale.

Deputies found about 850 plants along with cash and ammunition, he said.

Their arrival was meant to be a message that illegal grows won't be tolerated.

The Marijuana Eradication Team, or MET, wanted to make sure everyone can see them coming.

"We weren't quiet about it. We turned on our sirens. The whole neighborhood could hear it. The whole mountainside could hear it. We want this problem gone," says Sgt. James Jensen with the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department.

The problem they’re targeting is large marijuana grows in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In this case it was a highly sophisticated one, with underground irrigation, on seven acres along Loma Chiquita Road.

Concerned neighbors tipped off police. "We're not out here for medical marijuana, we're out here for illegal grows," says Sgt. Jensen.

"It's all about the money in this organization," says Jensen. "And just seeing the Fed Ex containers, the large amount of cash, all the vehicles on the property are from out of state, it's not for medical or personal use."

Santa Clara County authorities say the operation wasn't just illegal, it was dangerous.

"It's also a problem with the environment, fire hazards. There's several propane containers over there. There's fertilizers. They're destroying the environment," says Sgt. Jensen.

Investigators suspect there are other illegal grows nearby, but just had warrants for the one Thursday. They want those operations to know, they'll be back.

"Any plant that we can pull up, any illegal operation that we can destroy and get rid of, we'll put people on notice," he says.

Investigators say they are making steady progress.

So far this year, Santa Clara County's Marijuana Eradication Team has confiscated 32,380 plants with an estimated street value of $65 million. They've also recovered 161 pounds of processed marijuana valued at $325,000.