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Published on February 28, 2024
Georgia's Gone Green, Peach State Cops Unearth $22.3M Pot Paradise in Fishy Farm FarceSource: Georgia Department of Agriculture

What was supposed to be a check on an illegal food manufacturing plant turned into a record-breaking drug bust for Georgia officials. On a seemingly routine inspection in Pierce County, law enforcement stumbled upon what is now considered the county's "largest" indoor marijuana growing operation to date, with an estimated street value of $22.3 million.

Authorities from the Georgia Department of Agriculture, collaborating with the Pierce County Sheriff's Office, initially believed they were going to find violations related to food safety. However, their raid exposed a sprawling marijuana farm with over 11,000 plants. The operation, described as "very sophisticated" by Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tyler Harper, was housed in a facility initially disguised as a fish farm, according to WSBTV.

The bust went down in rural South Georgia, where investigators believed the growing operation had been in place since 2022. Sheriff Ramsey Bennett detailed the complexity of the setup to FOX 5 Atlanta, noting that "a very high-tech growing operation utilizing lighting, and they were watering by hand and had tail water recovery system." Four Chinese nationals are in custody, with one suspect detained by ICE, revealed by Bennett. Bonds have been denied for all the arrested parties.

The investigations proposed a networked scene, where the suspects had ties stretching from New York City to Houston, possibly indicating involvement in a larger drug ring. Officials think the processed marijuana was being shipped out-of-state, creating a distribution footprint far wider than Pierce County's borders. Sheriff Bennett added to WSBTV, the case has attracted federal agencies' attention, including the FBI and DEA, assuring the public that the investigation is still very much alive.

The arrested are facing serious charges, including felony marijuana manufacturing, felony possession of marijuana, and potential additional trafficking charges. The magnitude of this bust not only highlights the craftiness of the perpetrators but also underscores the voracity of Georgia law enforcement in pursuing and shutting down such elaborate illegal operations. With local and federal agencies now deep into the case, more developments are expected as they unravel the full scope of this drug enterprise.