STANISLAUS COUNTY -- Illegal marijuana grows are putting people and wildlife at risk, and now, after a large pot bust, a state agency is urging growers to wash their plants.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife busted what is described as a cartel-style operation in Stanislaus County, Tuesday, along with deadly smuggled pesticides.
Pesticides smuggled from Mexico, illegal in the U.S. for more than a decade, were found in the rural city of Newman. They were used to protect what Captain Patrick Foy calls one of the largest marijuana grows they’ve seen so far.
"It was started really early in the season, and it was a surprise, really,” Captain Foy, with the Department of Fish and Wildlife explained.
The chemicals are so dangerous, just one teaspoon can kill a lion. That’s why the Patterson Police Services, run by the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, posted a warning to unlawful drug users on Facebook stating:
“If you choose to break the law and put yourself in danger, please at least wash the marijuana before using it.”
"When they're used on these plants, they're not necessarily rinsed off and cleaned before they're put on the street for sale,” Captain Foy explained.
Twenty-thousand pot plants laced with pesticides were found growing on protected land. The drugs, valued on the street at $20 million were hauled off into helicopters Tuesday, on their way to be destroyed.
Camouflaged agents also found two handguns and some dead rabbits they believe may have ingested the smuggled pesticides.
“These [are] really nasty chemicals that are harming the wildlife. They're harming the Eco-system, they're harming the water ways and they're potentially harming human health,” Foy told FOX40.
While this large grow is no more, county officials realize this won’t stop everyone from using illegally-grown pot. They, at least, stress to wash the weed before using it.
“[It's] extremely lethal and would be lethal to a person who ingested just a very small amount of it. So that's pretty bad stuff,” the Captain said.
So bad, that Foy says, agents use special equipment when handling pesticide laced pot.