Although nearly two dozen people are behind bars and 41K lbs of pot seized, the recent drug busts in Grant, Adams and Franklin County are just a small portion of what's going on out there, say officials.

Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond says there are estimated to be between 500-600 illegal pot growing operations (15 plants or more) in the county, but they're hard pressed to get to all of them.

Despite a huge bust of at least 10 big operations, Raymond and others say the problem is still there. And alarmingly, he also says most of the bigger ones are tied to organized crime of some sort.

According to,  Raymond says there are telltale signs of a grow. Often there will be black tarps or other coverings in garden areas, and the plants are often mixed in with other vegetation. He says landowners will often lease or rent land for such operations. Aerial photos are used to determine where these operations are located.

He also said many of them use illegal photocopied medical marijuana permits to try to appear legitimate. Raymond says there's probably at least 240,000 lbs worth of illegal pot being grown in the area, and it stretches taxpayer dollars to get the warrants and seizure methods necessary to search them.

Most of the pot is grown and processed for shipment and sale in other states where it's still illegal. Because Washington has legal pot, these growers think it's easier to 'hide' an illegal operation.

Officials also stress that illegal pot can be health hazard. These Black Market operations often utilize harmful and even illegal chemicals to produce the products, including pesticides and fertilizers that can affect the marijuana-even be harmful to the user.