California marijuana enforcement ramps up search warrants, seizures

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A California enforcement effort initiated nearly 100 search warrants in the second quarter of 2023, leading to the seizure of more than $100 million of unlicensed marijuana products and plants, according to the latest state data.

Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce, which was created last year to coordinate efforts between state, local and federal agencies, more than doubled the amount of illegal cannabis seized in the recently ended quarter compared to the first three months of the year.

Enforcement efforts included:

  • Serving 92 search warrants, a 338% jump.
  • The seizure of more than $109 million in illegal marijuana, a 104% increase from the first quarter.
  • The eradication of 120,970 plants, up 130%.

“Our enforcement efforts are becoming increasingly diversified along the illegal cannabis supply chain as we served warrants on several unlicensed dispensaries in this quarter in addition to unlicensed cultivation operations,” Bill Jones, chief of the Department of Cannabis Control’s Law Enforcement Division, said in a new release.

The task force includes more than two dozen agencies, including the Department of Cannabis Control, Department of Fish and Wildlife and the state’s Office of Emergency Services.

The enforcement agency said it has served 113 search warrants this year, seizing nearly $162 million in unlicensed cannabis products, though government monetary estimates are often inflated.

The agency has also eradicated 173,499 plants and seized 23 firearms.

California’s massive underground marijuana market, which some experts project is double the size of its legal market, has been a perennial challenge for licensed operators throughout the supply chain.

Meanwhile, first-quarter cannabis sales in California slid to $1.25 billion, the lowest quarterly total since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to statistics from the state’s Department of Tax and Fee Administration.

The first-quarter report puts California’s marijuana operators on track to generate just less than $5 billion in sales this year, or 7.1% less than 2022, when taxable sales of recreational and medical marijuana eclipsed $5.3 billion.