A brash Oakland entrepreneur who pioneered industrial-scale pot production and even unionized his workers has been arrested after being accused of moving operations to a tomato farm in rural Sutter County.
Yan Ebyam was arrested earlier this week, along with 11 others, as part of Operation Facade. They were charged with illegally manufacturing more than 1,000 marijuana plants, according a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.
Ebyam rose to prominence in recent years as Oakland became a hotbed for California’s medical marijuana industry, which operates nominally under state law but is in growing conflict with the U.S. Justice Department.
According to news reports, Ebyam quietly left Oakland as local and federal law enforcement pressured the city to abandon plans to license four industrial pot farms. Oakland eventually withdrew the ordinance, a move that has cast uncertainty over the marijuana industry.
“The morality tale of Yan’s grows is perhaps the morality tale of the Oakland ordinance,” longtime medical marijuana attorney James Anthony recently told the Bay Citizen.
In January, Ebyam leased property on a farm in Rio Oso, 30 miles north of Sacramento, according to the federal complaint.
Sutter County sheriff’s deputies visited the farm in April and reported seeing more than 7,000 plants growing in a greenhouse the size of a football field. The owners of the farm told deputies that they expected the operation would earn $24 million each year from six harvests, according to court documents.
Ebyam later moved thousands of plants to Cal-Nevada Wholesale Florist in Sacramento, where he was arrested.
“He was very ambitious,” said Jeff Wilcox, an Oakland developer who, like Ebyam, was competing for a marijuana cultivation license before the ordinance was withdrawn. “Most people don’t operate at that scale.”