Over 1,900 cannabis plants were seized from an illegal cannabis operation in the 4200 block of Carpinteria Avenue, at the west end of Carpinteria city limits, on June 4.

The raid was led by Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Cannabis Compliance Team, with assistance from the Sheriff’s Compliance Response Team, and executed with a search warrant for illegal and unlicensed cannabis cultivation, transport, processing and sales. During the search, detectives located an illegal indoor cannabis operation running without state licenses and in violation of city rules. The operation included multiple rooms for cannabis cultivation, cloning and drying. In addition to seizing over 1,900 cannabis plants in various stages of growth, deputies also seized approximately five pounds of processed cannabis.

In a simultaneous investigation tied to the Carpinteria case, deputies subsequently executed a second search warrant on Monte Cristo Lane in Montecito. Detectives located 15 Armenian labor workers in the process of trimming cannabis, which originated from the illegal indoor cultivation site. The laborers were determined to be hired by an out-of-county contractor. It is not known if the service is legally operated since detectives were unable to identify or contact the owner. Detectives determined the laborers were not being held against their will and were not believed to be the victims of human trafficking. However, one of the workers was found to be in possession of a loaded and concealed Glock handgun and was subsequently arrested and booked. Detectives do not know why the subject was carrying a firearm. Approximately 100 pounds of processed cannabis was seized, as well as packaging and sales paraphernalia.

Forty-four-year-old Forrest Buchanan of Montecito was cited for cultivation and sales of cannabis without a state license and 41-year-old Vardges Babayan of Glendale was arrested and booked for possession of a loaded firearm.

This is the second case involving the illegal cultivation and processing of cannabis within a residential area in Santa Barbara County this week. The first originated in Los Olivos and stemmed from an unlicensed site in Lompoc. In both cases, unlicensed laborers from outside the county were involved who did not meet the county’s requirements for cannabis employment.During the investigations, community members provided information to the county’s Cannabis Compliance Team.  

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