By Laura Haefeli

WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Police say they have uncovered a large indoor marijuana growing operation that involved three separate homes within one West Sacramento block.

West Sacramento police say officers had been investigating the operation for the past few months.

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The suspects managed to buy three homes along the 3900 block of Prosser Street. Police say no one lived in the homes, instead, they were being used as large grow houses.

Neighbors started complaining of the smell of marijuana coming from the homes, prompting detectives to look into the operation a little closer.

“Especially on windy days, it smelled like a skunk. You kind of connect the dots like OK, well it’s definitely not a skunk,” Roy Ianaz, a next-door neighbor, said.

On Wednesday morning, detectives raided the homes. In total, about 2,000 marijuana plants were seized. About $23,000 in cash was also taken as evidence.

“Although marijuana possession and growing marijuana is legal in California, there are stipulations to the law that must be adhered to. The suspects, in this case, are not residents of our city, they purchased homes for the sole purpose of furthering a criminal enterprise,” West Sacramento said in a statement.

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Police say several suspects have been arrested, but their names are not being released at this point due to the ongoing investigation.

So why are there still illegal marijuana grows in California? President of the Cannabinoid Industry Association, Priscilla Agoncillo, says illegal marijuana is cheaper.

“On the black market let’s say for top-shelf OG, you can probably pick that up for 10-15 bucks a gram, in a store you’re looking after taxes around $45-60 a gram,” Agoncillo said.

But illegal marijuana is not always safer.

“When you buy from a regulated market you know that it’s tested, it’s compliant, those are things that people are willing to pay for,” Agoncillo said.

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The marijuana industry expert we spoke to says it’s on lawmakers to take a look at lowering taxes so that people may be more inclined to buy from compliant businesses.