A tipster's phone call led police and drug agents to a Pasadena business Monday where investigators found hundreds of pounds of marijuana in what might have been a major drug operation concealed in office space.
Nearly 30 people were detained during the investigation involving the manufacture of hash oil, a substance extracted from cannabis. Police received an anonymous call at 2:30 p.m. Monday claiming the buildings on Nina Street were being used to make the banned substance, the Pasadena Police Department said.
Around 500 pounds of marijuana and 200 pint sized Mason jars of hash oil was seized from the lab, police said. Agents removed plastic bags and rubber boxes filled with evidence and marked with the weight of its contents.
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Agents placed a yellow sign on the building that read, "Warning: A clandestine laboratory of illegal drugs and or hazardous chemicals was seized at this location."
“It smelled really strong. Anybody that would smell it would recognize it’s marijuana,” said Tom Tran, a mechanic who works nearby.
CO2, a gas which is used during the manufacturing process, also was found. It is used at high pressure to enable the extraction of the substance, which can be the most potent of the main cannabis products due to the high level of psychoactive compound per volume.
In total, 28 people were initially detained for questioning, but only two remained in police custody Tuesday morning. The two men were arrested on suspicion of manufacturing or chemically extracting a controlled substance. Those released were employees of the operation, police said.
Police arrested 39-year-old Jeffrey Raber of the Werc Shop – described on its website as testing "botanical products" doing "cannabinoid profiling" and helping medical marijuana patients get an "accurate dosage."
Raber’s partner, 43-year-old Mark Piesner, was also arrested.
The owners told police they were operating lawfully. They have since posted bond.
The Werc Shop's Facebook page showcases its efforts to legalize marijuana.
Attorney Bart Kaspero, who specializes in marijuana law, said there's a small chance the company could succeed in court.
"By the time they go to court, if it shows there's some creative arguments and there's much more legitimacy to back up the medicinal and botanical arguments, then that's going to make it a really interesting case," he said.
Neighbors said the business moved into the building about a year ago.
The Pasadena Fire Department also responded due to the dangerous nature of the hash oil extraction process, but no evacuations were ordered.