Law enforcement agencies destroy cannabis plants at the North Plains site. Photo courtesy WCSO

Washington County Sheriff’s Office shuts down ‘massive’ illegal cannabis operation outside North Plains

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said that an illegal cannabis grow site northeast of the city of North Plains was shut down following a search in late September of the property.

According to a press release issued Thursday, October 7, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office Tactical Negotiations Team—a SWAT-type team—executed a search warrant at 13275 NW Jackson School Road, a property located slightly over one mile northeast of North Plains city limits.

With the aid of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team, the search resulted in the seizure of more than 800 pounds of dried cannabis, 5,719 cannabis plants, half a million dollars in grow equipment, and $22,000 in U.S. currency. 

Cannabis growing indoors at the North Plains site. Photo courtesy WCSO

The search warrant was part of an ongoing investigation by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office Westside Interagency Narcotics (WIN) team, a group including the Beaverton Police Department, Hillsboro Police Department, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon National Guard, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

According to property records maintained by Washington County, the 29-acre lot, which features a 6,000 square foot home, a 5,000 square foot barn, and a 13,000 square foot horse arena, was purchased November 4, 2019 by two people, Zhi Biao Zhao and Yao Quan Zhuang.

An overhead view of the property near North Plains. Photo courtesy WCSO

All three structures had been converted to the purpose of growing cannabis plants, the sheriff’s office said. 

“The estimated street value of drugs removed from distribution was over $6.5 million,” the press release noted. 

The sheriff’s office created an edited video showing aspects of the drug bust, which can be viewed at youtu.be/7zoDc6mYx9s.

The details of the case were sent to the Washington County District Attorney’s Office, the sheriff's office said. It was not yet clear if any arrests had been made in connection to the case. 

While the growth and consumption of cannabis in Oregon is legal, a strict regulatory framework through the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission must be used by grow operations to cultivate commercial quantities of the plant. Individuals are permitted to grow up to four cannabis plants per residence under Oregon’s rules for personal use, though the plant remains illegal at the federal level, where it is classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a “Schedule 1” substance, alongside ecstasy, LSD, and heroin. 

More information on cannabis use and licensing in Oregon can be found online at the OLCC website at www.oregon.gov/olcc/marijuana/Pages/Frequently-Asked-Questions.aspx.