PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office says it has busted an illegal marijuana and THC vape cartridge operation in north Phoenix.

A tip led MCSO detectives and Phoenix police officers to the house where the "lab" was allegedly based.

[RELATED: Arizona health officials confirm 3 cases of vaping-related illness in Maricopa County]

After several days of surveillance at the house, detectives served a search warrant on Sept. 12.

Two people were arrested in the bust. They have been identified as Tucker Reece and Kolby Stevens, both 23 years old.

[WATCH: "We can't wait for this to become an epidemic problem," Sheriff Penzone says]

Detectives also seized more than $380,000 worth of illegal drugs, firearms and cash.

Investigators say they found approximately 1,100 “Dank” brand packaged vape cartridges and eight jars of narcotic distillate.

These cartridges have been located throughout the country and have been associated with recent vaping deaths. MCSO says those cartridges were actually being manufactured in the residence.

Neighbors said that home is a rental and are "blown away" and surprised by the arrests.

"They were nice and we didn't necessarily see any activity that made us overly worried about the safety of our neighborhood," said one neighbor who wanted to remain anonymous. 

Based on the equipment and the products found inside the residence, detectives believe this location was what they call a "Closed Loop BHO Manufacturing Lab." (A closed-loop system is an extraction method used to create cannabis concentrates. During the process, no solvents are exposed to the open air but are contained within a closed loop system.)

[RELATED: Arizona health officials issue warning about the dangers of vaping]

“We are focused on protecting the young adults in our community,” said Sheriff Paul Penzone. “We will not tolerate criminal activity targeting adolescence for profit and at the expense of health."

Sheriff Penzone said the drug industry is constantly evolving.

"They're (vape pens and e-cigarettes) so popular. It's a very easy way to ingest drugs in plain sight," he said. "What better way for drug distributors to hide their product in the community and make it more difficult to investigate."

"It's not only a bad habit and dangerous, but it's leading to the loss of lives of a lot of adolescents," added Penzone.

He's more concerned than surprised.

"We can't wait for this to be an epidemic problem. We need to get in front of it," said Sheriff Penzone. "This is an us problem, not just a law enforcement problem. It's a societal problem and we're going to be aggressive and pursue and prosecute those who are doing it."

Seizures at the home included:

-Around 1,100 1-gram THC vape carts (approx. value $55,000)

-8 Jars Narcotic Distillate (approx. value $300,000)

-300 pounds mid-grade marijuana (used to manufacture BHO, approx. value $30,000)

-2 ounces of Shatter (approx. value $1000)

-Closed Loop BHO Manufacturing Lab

-Approx. $3,000 Cash

-Rifle, shotgun, 4 handguns

-2 vehicles, boat and ATV

Reece and Stevens were booked into the Fourth Avenue Jail on felony charges of sale of narcotic drugs, possession of narcotic drug, possession of manufacturing equipment for narcotic drugs, possession of marijuana for sale and possession of a weapon in a drug offense.


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.



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