Six people were arrested at multiple locations Wednesday morning as the result of a two-year investigation into illegal marijuana production and distribution in the Port Angeles area.
The Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team (OPNET) and the State Patrol Cannabis Enforcement Team simultaneously served multiple search warrants at various locations within Clallam County, according to a press release from the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.
“Due to the length and complexity of the investigation, there is an extensive amount of evidence and reports for the prosecutor’s office to review before formal charging,” the release said.
The operation began about 9 a.m. early Wednesday afternoon, six of the seven people noted in the release had been booked into Clallam County jail, all under the name “John Doe” and all for investigation of first-degree driving while license suspended.
Clallam County Detective Sgt. Eric Munger said early Wednesday afternoon those names were placeholders so booking officers could process the men. By mid-afternoon Wednesday, the booking for all six men had been changed to investigation of manufacture and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.
“The charges are going to be down the road. It’s going to take a long time to charge this one. The prosecutor has to go through thousands of pages of discovery,” Munger said.
“We are being vague so we keep people guessing as to what we might be doing next. I can’t answer if we have more arrests. This is ongoing operation,” he said early Wednesday afternoon.
Investigators were continuing to determine the number of plants and amount of money and other evidence, Munger said.
Neighbors often are familiar with the “pungent” smell of illegal marijuana grow operations but since it was legalized, fewer people recognize it as an issue, Munger said.
The first legal sales of marijuana in Washington state occurred in July 2014, but black market marijuana operations continue to be a problem in the county, Brian King, Clallam County chief criminal deputy, said in an August interview.
“Washington is a big source for black market marijuana, especially to the East Coast. It is grown, packaged and shipped out,” he said, adding black market marijuana also gets shipped to states where it is not legal.
Nineteen states, Washington, D.C., and Guam allow recreational marijuana use. Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas and South Carolina prohibit all marijuana use. The other states allow medical marijuana to varying degrees.
As part of the state’s efforts to combat black market marijuana, the State Patrol’s Marijuana Enforcement Team travels from county to county investigating all drug-related activity but focusing specifically on the black market diversion, production and distribution of marijuana and marijuana-related products.
Its detectives are co-housed regionally with drug task forces in four regions of the state. In 2021, the detectives seized 47,586 black market plants statewide, made 82 arrests and seized 11 weapons.
Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at Brian.Gawley@ sound publishing.com.