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California’s New Task Force Destroys $15 Million Worth of Illicit Cannabis

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Oct 14, 2022   
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California has had a legal adult-use cannabis market for over four years, but that doesn’t mean every cannabis sale in the state is permitted. Much of the market is still unlicensed and therefore illegal.

And just like in the days of cannabis prohibition, illicit cannabis businesses can end up being raided by state law enforcement.

That’s exactly what happened to a grow operation in a rural area of Jupiter, Tuolumne County, on October 4. According to the California Governor’s office, this raid on an unlicensed outdoor cultivation operation involved nine search warrants and eradicated 11,260 plants and 5,237 pounds of flower, worth an estimated retail value of more than $15 million.

The raid was carried out by California’s newly formed Unified Enforcement Task Force, which Governor Gavin Newsom recently sanctioned to protect “communities and consumers throughout California and the U.S. from unregulated and potentially harmful cannabis products.”

The taskforce is co-chaired by the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. It’s coordinated by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services through its Homeland Security Division.

“California is taking immediate and aggressive action to stop illegal cannabis and strengthen the burgeoning legal market throughout the state,” Newsom said in a statement.

“By shutting down illegal grow sites and applying serious consequences to offenders, we are working to curtail the criminal organizations that are undercutting the regulated cannabis market in California.”

Unlicensed and unabashed

The Jupiter raid is just the latest in an ongoing series of law enforcement efforts to quash California’s illicit cannabis market.

This August, the DCC announced that it had seized over a billion dollars’ worth of illicit cannabis over the preceding thirteen months. At the time, the DCC claimed to have led and assisted other agencies in the service of 232 search warrants, which helped seize more than half a million pounds of illegal product and eradicated over 1.4 million cannabis plants.

Many of these operations are based in the rural parts of California. Some grows can even be found hidden among the trees on public land.

“It’s estimated that there are several thousands of these sites on public lands in California,” Dr Greta Wengert, executive director of the Integral Ecology Research Center, told Analytical Cannabis last December.

These covert cannabis farmers often use toxic and illegal pesticides to protect their crops from curious wildlife. And these pesticides are killing wild animals in their droves.

“Nearly all of them are using illegal pesticides, insecticides that are banned in the United States in the European Union. They often are brought in through our southern border, and are highly, highly toxic.”

“For example, we have found several dead black bears – three 400-pound black bears dead just from a tiny amount of these insecticides.”


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