It was a hectic Thursday last week as several law enforcement agencies — from federal, state and local jurisdictions — launched coordinated raids at 15 residences, most of which were in Washington COURTESY PHOTO - These marijuana plants under grow lights were among the 2,600 plants found in a raid of 15 area homes.

More than 80 police officers took part in a coordinated campaign Sept. 5 that targeted alleged “multiple large-scale marijuana growing operations” in the metro area. While serving search warrants, investigators seized more than 2,600 marijuana plants, 34 pounds of dried marijuana, approximately $80,000 in cash and 12 firearms — mostly rifles and shotguns, according to Sgt. Bob Ray of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Officials said they believe the operation was set up in Oregon because of Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Program.

“They were manipulating and exploiting the medical marijuana laws for financial gain,” said Ray. “They were all way out of compliance. They either had too much marijuana or were selling it.”

The raids were directed by the Westside Interagency Narcotics (WIN) agency, with assistance from the Oregon Department of Justice, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, Portland Police Bureau, Beaverton Police Department, Hillsboro Police Department, Oregon National Guard, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Marshals Service, and the FBI.

Ray pointed out that 18 of the 35 suspects identified in the raids possessed medical marijuana cards, and five of the 15 houses were registered as “grow houses” under the state’s medical marijuana program.

Authorities claimed that up to 10 times the legal number of plants were being grown, and as much as 50 pounds of marijuana — reportedly valued at approximately $100,000 — was being shipped around the United States each month.

Most of the houses where the search warrants were served were in Aloha, with some in Hillsboro, Bethany and Portland.

“They did hit two locations in Hillsboro,” said Lt. Mike Rouches, spokesman for the Hillsboro Police Department. “One was on Lois Street near Baseline Road, and the other one was on Borwick Road near Brookwood Avenue. It was a WIN operation, but we had three detectives out there helping.”

The police operation was the result of investigations that began last December, when detectives obtained information that a group of people were allegedly growing high volumes of marijuana and then shipping it to other states. Detectives allege the marijuana was being distributed by an organized crime operation.

Ray explained that who will be charged and what the final charges will be is to be determined by the Washington County District Attorney’s Office and a grand jury.

No one has yet been taken into custody, according to Ray.

“The information is being forwarded to the district attorney for charging decisions,” said Ray. “We don’t believe there is a flight risk. These are U.S. citizens.”

Rouches said the large-scale police operation was unusual for the Hillsboro area.

“From time to time, WIN will do two or three or four locations, so 15 is large,” Rouches said.

“It has been a couple years since we’ve had one this big,” added Ray, who said authorities believe the trafficking activity had been going on for four or five years.

Ray said that in addition to being an unusually large bust for the Hillsboro area, the case represents a troubling development.

“The disturbing thing is, these people set up these operations in very nice neighborhoods, and that affects livability and it brings a criminal element in,” said Ray.

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