What is likely the biggest illegal weed bust in Livingston's history could have been a legal business if the growers had applied for the proper business license, according to the police chief.
The city allows marijuana businesses of any kind other than dispensaries as long as they meet certain parameters. So the 10,000 pounds of trimmed marijuana plants could have been grown on the up and up, Police Chief Ruben Chavez said on Thursday.
Police and the Merced County Sheriff's Office found the product with a street value of more than $1 million about 7 a.m. Wednesday in a warehouse on Industrial Drive.
"If they wanted to do it legally, they could have," Chavez said. "This is definitely the biggest (bust) I've been involved in."
No one was present during the search by law enforcement, and nobody has been arrested as of Thursday, according to Chavez. Officers have a "bunch of names" they're looking into, he said.
A moving van parked near the warehouse held about 1,000 pounds of buds, according to law enforcement. The warehouse was also used to process the marijuana plants into honey oil, a concentrated version of the plant that is often smoked or eaten.
Wednesday's bust was linked to another large marijuana operation in Ballico that deputies raided in May, according to the Merced County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies on May 18 seized more than 3,500 plants and more than 150 pounds of buds from two black market greenhouses on East Avenue in the unincorporated community of Ballico in Merced County.