Authorities in Las Vegas this week seized thousands of marijuana plants valued at millions of dollars in what was a record bust for the jurisdiction.

The city’s metropolitan police said that officers found 5,700 plants worth an estimated $8.6 million in a raid on Wednesday of an old warehouse.

The raid was, according to local news reports, the culmination of a months-long investigation into a sophisticated growing operation. According to local television station KSNV, it was the “largest indoor marijuana grow house bust ever” for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

“A large portion of the warehouse had been converted into a sophisticated illegal marijuana grow operation,” reported a different station, KTNV, noting that investigators also “found lighting, ballasts, duct work, chemicals, charcoal filters and other items associated with a large-scale growth operation.”

Wednesday’s bust easily eclipses the previous largest raid for the local police, which came in 2013 and led to the seizure of 3,244 plants. 

Nevada Cannabis Laws

Nevada state law allows adults aged 21 and older to grow marijuana “at home for their personal consumption, but only if there is not a state-licensed retail marijuana store within 25 miles of the home.” They may grow up to six plants per person, but no more than 12 in a household, and “must be grown within a closet, room, greenhouse, or other enclosed area that is equipped with a lock or other security device.” 

While marijuana sales have surged in certain markets during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many customers resigned to an isolated existence at home, Nevada’s marijuana industry appears to have been hammered by the crisis. 

Riana Durrett, executive director of the Nevada Dispensary Association, told the Reno Gazette Journal this month that it “safe to say sales are below 50 percent statewide, many stores are below that, and some are (temporarily) closed.

Nevada marijuana dispensaries were forced to close their storefronts last month after a shutdown order from Gov. Steve Sisolak to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The dispensaries have since only been able to conduct sales via delivery. 

“(It) was a mixture of the lack of capacity to meet the market demand through delivery, a drop in tourism and because people had already stocked up,” Durrett said of the plunge in sales.

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