Police Arrest 16 and Seize $35M Worth of Pot in Atlanta Grow Houses

March 22, 2019 Updated: March 22, 2019

Marijuana worth $35 million has been seized across three Atlanta counties following a five-month long investigation that led to the arrest of 16 people, authorities announced Wednesday.

Police raided five large “grow houses” in Gwinnett, Henry and Clayton counties on March 14, each with an average of 340 to 1,500 marijuana plants.

Police recovered 3,174 marijuana plants altogether, along with THC candies, THC oil, cocaine, illegal mushrooms, 22 firearms, around $676,500 in cash, and six vehicles, the press release said. THC, also known as Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical responsible for many of the psychological effects of marijuana.

Police estimate the total street value of the seized drugs is around $35 million.

“To those passing by, no one would have suspected that these five marijuana grow houses were harboring criminal activity,” police said.

The grow homes, the largest of which was 8,500 square-feet in Norcross, had sophisticated equipment to manufacture high-grade marijuana, authorities said.

Authorities uncovered two large drug trafficking organizations “that embedded themselves into the community,” Gwinnett County police said in a press release.

The 16 suspects are aged between 26 and 54 and are members of large-scale organization that operates in the southeast region of the U.S., police said.

“The detectives learned that the operation was tied to a larger international organization serving not only Gwinnett County and the metro-Atlanta area but also the southeast United States,” the press release continued.

Dacula, Jonesboro, Locust Grove and Lawrenceville were named by Gwinnett County police as the locations of the other grow homes searched.

“Major Cleo Atwater, commander of the Narcotics Unit, said, ‘The detectives assigned to the Narcotics Unit truly committed themselves to this criminal investigation. Because of their hard work, a significant amount of drugs will be kept out of our neighborhoods and schools,’” Gwinnett Police Department tweeted.

“The work of the detectives in this case is a shining example of the dedication our officers have to serving the community,” Police Chief Butch Ayers, 35, added.

As the investigation is still ongoing, more arrests could be made, local media reported.

“This is still very active. We are still following up on leads to see where where our next seizure, our next information that we get,” Corporal Michele Pihera, of the Gwinnett County Police Department told WSB-TV Atlanta.

It is illegal to grow, buy, sell or smuggle medical or recreational marijuana in Georgia, Fox News reported.

The news comes as Federal agents seized $450 kilos of cocaine with an estimated street value of $12 million at the Port of Philadelphia on Tuesday morning.

The cocaine, valued at $27,000 per kilo, was seized on board the Desiree and later taken for processing at a warehouse by agents, ABC7 Chicago reported.

The drugs bust was the second largest at the Port of Philadelphia this month.