Officials in Washington state this week destroyed some 13,000 pounds of marijuana plants in Touchet, a rural area southeast of Yakima.
The state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) said the plants were valued at about $3 million.
The pot came from three farms – Evergreen Nirvana, Black Diamond Cannabis and Green Volcano – which are the only authorized marijuana producers in Walla Walla County.
The LCB warned the farms last month that about half of their crop would be destroyed, accusing them of growing plants on more than their allotted amount of land.
Regulators say authorized farms can only use 30,000 square feet of outdoor land to grow their plants. An attorney for the farms told local media that the actual canopy of their plants was under the 30,000 square foot limit and that the additional land was empty space between individual plants.
The owners of the farms claim they are being unfairly targeted due to complaints filed with the LCB by competitors.
Walla Walla County banned the growing, processing and sale of recreational cannabis in 2014 and put a moratorium in place in 2016 on the growth of medical marijuana.
The three farms argued in court that they were medical marijuana growers and had been in operation before the 2016 moratorium, which allowed them to continue their operations.
“Our best understanding is that they have been operating in a non-compliant fashion this entire time and it was a lack of understanding of the officer that previously looked at it,” Cpt. Jeremy Wessing, who oversees cannabis production for the LCB, said in a statement.
Washington voters in 2012 approved Initiative 502, which legalized the use of recreational marijuana in the state. It passed by a 56-44 margin.
The law says buyers must be 21 years or older to buy at a state-licensed retailer and have to present a valid ID.
Buyers can purchase up to one ounce of usable marijuana, which the law defines as harvested flowers, 16 ounces of marijuana-infused edibles in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form and seven grams of marijuana concentrates.
Recreational use is not allowed in public and it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana if you have more than five nanograms of THC – the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis – per milliliter of blood.