California’s ramped-up enforcement seizes 1.2 million illicit cannabis plants

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(This story has been updated with more totals of eradicated illicit plants over the years.)

Enforcement against illicit cannabis operators continues to ramp up in California, with authorities having seized 1.2 million illegal plants and more than 180,000 pounds of processed marijuana in 2021 alone, state Attorney General Rob Bonta announced.

The state’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) program has spearheaded much of the enforcement efforts, Bonta said in a news release.

He also said he ordered a six-month review of CAMP to “ensure we are using our resources effectively.”

“Illegal and unlicensed marijuana planting is bad for our environment, bad for our economy, and bad for the health and safety of our communities,” said Bonta, who was one of the marijuana industry’s staunchest allies in the state legislature before being appointed AG by Gov. Gavin Newsom in March.

“From dumping toxic chemicals in our waterways to cheating the state out of millions of tax dollars, illicit marijuana grows have far-reaching impacts and unintended consequences,” said Bonta, who pledged to continue enforcement efforts against unlicensed operators.

According to Bonta’s office, CAMP eradicated:

  • 1.1 million illegal cannabis plants in 2020.
  • Roughly 950,000 in 2019.
  • A little more than 614,000 in 2018.
  • 1.2 million in 2017.
  • A whopping 1.5 million in 2016.

Bonta’s pronouncement means that CAMP – which coordinates law enforcement efforts between state and federal officials – is not going anywhere, despite how many legacy operators feel about the program.

Newsom promised in his 2019 State of the State address to use CAMP to continue targeting illegal cultivation operations.

Enforcement is also certain to come from industry regulators since it was a top priority cited by the Department of Cannabis Control earlier this year when the agency was created.

– John Schroyer