Million-dollar marijuana bust by police in SW Detroit

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The feds and DPD bust a massive marijuana grow operation in southwest Detroit.

FOX 2's Randy Wimbley reported authorities may have made a big mistake. The six people growing marijuana out of this building in southwest Detroit were doing so legally, according to their lawyer. But authorities told us earlier Tuesday this was a criminal operation. 

"This organization is getting ready to let the harvest and grow and get ready to go out on the streets for distribution," said Sgt. Gerry Johnson.

Was it a major drug bust - or a legitimate medical marijuana operation wrongly targeted?

Detroit Police and Border Control say they disrupted a multi-million-dollar criminal outfit at 4473 West Jefferson. Six people are in police custody after authorities executed a search warrant there. 

"There has been a serious investment in infrastructure in this building to continue the illicit trade of growing and selling marijuana in our city," said a DPD gang intel unit member.

But a lawyer for the group, named Viola, says its operation and the men arrested are totally legit.

"They are operating under state and local law," said attorney Thomas Lavigne. "They have a temporary operator's license under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act, and signed off by the city of Detroit.

So how did this operation get noticed? Detroit Police credit the US border patrol.

"They were conducting an investigation last week and they smelled a strong odor of marijuana emanating from this building," Johnson said. "We have a gang intel embedded agent from border patrol. They got together, he was able to conduct a thorough investigation and was able to get a search warrant."

They executed that search warrant Tuesday: arresting six people, confiscating drugs and unveiling an elaborate system used to grow marijuana complete with timed lights, fans and an irrigation system.

"As you see there was a laboratory in the back testing the product here," Johnson said. "It's very, very sophisticated. one of the most sophisticated operations I've seen in a long time."

Investigators estimate they seized more than a 100 pounds of marijuana and say it has a street value of more than a million dollars. But the group's lawyer says that marijuana is medicine. and it doesn't end up on the street, but with patients.

"Every bit of medicine will be tested and labeled and we're moving in the right direction," Lavigne said. "And yet reefer madness is blocking what's going on."

Neither the lawyer nor the city of Detroit were able to provide that list Tuesday night naming temporary medical marijuana license holders. There has been no word from Detroit police on if this bust was a mistake.