In what’s being called the largest drug bust in Grays Harbor County history, Sheriff Rick Scott said some of those arrested did not know they were breaking the law.
Scott said some of the growers were told they could come to the state to legally grow pot, and working at the grow operations would enable them to pay off their moving debts, and they could stay in the country.
Those stays could now include prison time.
Investigators ended up raiding 50 properties in King, Thurston, and Grays Harbor County. Most of the properties, 38, were in Grays Harbor County.
The raids ended up in the seizure of more than 34,000 pot plants, worth an estimated $80 million.
Investigators said they also found hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gold in the homes.
Ten of the 44 people arrested in Tuesday's raids appeared in court Wednesday. The rest were being released.
Scott said the county is trying to find shelters for the accused, since most don’t have families or friends to stay with, and the homes they were living in, the suspected pot growing locations, are now considered crime scenes.
Police credited the help of neighbors who alerted authorities about the suspected illegal operations.
"The whole county is kind of small and rural, so we know when something is amiss," said Ryan Jump, whose neighbor's home was raided Tuesday. "Don't mess with us Grays Harbor people."