SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office dismantled an illegal cannabis operation and a large scale butane honey oil lab with the help of the county Cannabis Licensing Office.
On Thursday, they said they found 5,400 pounds of cannabis, five pounds of cannabis concentrate, 114 pounds of honey oil, hundreds of counterfeit vape pens and an ice cream freezer truck with several thousand pounds of frozen cannabis material inside while serving a search warrant in the 1900 block of Commercial Way.
"With those vape pens we found oils containing vitamin-e, which has been linked to vaping-related illnesses and deaths across the country," says Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Public Information Officer, Ashley Keehn.
Neighboring business owners and residents say they had no idea what was going on at the yellow-tinted warehouse and were shocked to learn it was being used as a butane honey oil lab.
The Sheriff's Office said the lab and hazardous electrical circuits are dangerous because there have been several recent fires in similar situations.
A fire which could have proved devastating to mobile homes and businesses in that area.
"With the feed and seed store and all that hay in there, that fire could have been huge," says Melanie Benites.
As hazmat crews took their time deconstructing the lab, deputies forced businesses near the lab to close for hours and several neighboring mobile homes to evacuate.
"If this had exploded it would have been very detrimental to the area," says Katie Filson.
Some of the stores were allowed to re-open by about 3 p.m. while those closer to the former BHO lab remained closed into Friday evening.
Keehn says at this time they do have an arrest pending, however the investigation is ongoing.