When you think of huge pot bust, you think of getting major drugs off the streets, but you'd be only half right.
The Madera County Sheriff's Department launched a major operation with a goal that's two fold: eradicate the crop and minimize the toxic waste left behind by the growers.
Madera County Sheriff John Anderson said, "Over the last two days, we've been involved in this "Operation Mercury".
Sheriff Anderson is a man on a mission. He led 32 agents on a 24 hour mission that took out 20,000 plants.
But the dope peddlers in local hills leave more than a trail of human misery, they also leave a toxic waste heap behind. "They have all the chemicals, the rat poison, the fertilizer..." said Anderson.
Several agencies took part in Operation Mercury, chopping down plants that were up to five feet tall. And to grow that much pot takes a lot of equipment and a lot of it has now been yanked out of the ground. "They have intricate irrigation systems, we removed three miles of plastic pipe," said Anderson.
Anderson says missions like this are vital because he believes marijuana is a gateway drug. "It's a drug, its a starter drug. Nobody says I'll go out today and try some opium or crack today," said Anderson.
Anderson wants to shut the door on this gateway drug, one victory at a time.
No arrests were made during the raid.
The terrain was so rugged that agents had to be brought in by helicopter.