During a midnight raid on Wednesday, police in Wiltshire, England were surprised to discover “thousands” of marijuana plants—estimated to be worth more than $1.2 million—in an underground bunker built during the Cold War.
The bunker was formerly owned by the Ministry of Defence and was built in 1985 to protect government officials in the event of a nuclear war. Known officially as the Regional Government Headquarters (RGHQ) Chilmark, it ceased to be operational in 1992 and was sold in a sealed bid auction in 1997.
Officials raided the bunker following a tip from an unnamed source. Police say they waited outside the structure for three people to leave and detained them, using their keys to gain entry into the otherwise impenetrable bunker.
“There are approximately 20 rooms in the building, split over two floors, each 200 feet long and 70 feet wide,” Detective Inspector Paul Franklin said in a statement. “Almost every single room had been converted for the wholesale production of cannabis plants, and there was a large amount of evidence of previous crops.”
Three males found inside the bunker were aged 15, 19, and 37, and were reported to have “no fixed abode.” The individuals were believed to be gardeners tending to the farm and were arrested on suspicion of cannabis production.
The three other men, aged 27, 30, and 45, were arrested outside of the bunker and were arrested on suspicion of cannabis production in addition to human trafficking offenses.
Sadly, it’s become fairly common in the UK for drug cultivators to use human trafficking as a source for cheap labor. A recent report by the National Police Chiefs’ Council found a strong link between “commercial cultivation [of marijuana], modern slavery, and people living without legal permission to remain in the UK, including the exploitation of vulnerable adults and children.”
In the Wiltshire raid, it’s believed that undocumented immigrants were brought in to work as gardeners. The saddest part is that these young men—including two teenagers—will be further criminalized and marginalized rather than educated, rehabilitated, and brought into society.
“Individuals, including children, have indeed been prosecuted as opposed to being safeguarded as vulnerable victims,” the police chiefs’ study says. “There are clear examples of children being re-trafficked after coming into contact with law enforcement, with many going missing from local authority care.”
So next time you hear about a massive pot farm being raided in England, even if it’s in a place as cool as a nuclear bunker, remember that the criminalization of marijuana has some far nastier consequences than a few drug arrests. That should (justifiably) kill your buzz.