California Weed

California cops seize almost 1 million marijuana plants in raids on black market farms

California has stepped up its enforcement against unlicensed marijuana grow operations.

Local, state and federal law enforcement in California have arrested 148 people and eradicated nearly 1 million unlicensed marijuana plants at grow sites across the state, according to a statement from the California Attorney General’s Office.

As part of the state’s “Campaign Against Marijuana Planting” campaign, law enforcement seized and destroyed 953,459 plants at 345 cannabis grow sites across Northern, Central and Southern California, Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office said in a statement.

Police also seized 168 weapons as part of the raids.

That’s nearly triple the number of people arrested in so-called CAMP raids in 2018, when 52 people were arrested and 614,267 plants were destroyed.

“Illegal cannabis grows are devastating our communities. Criminals who disregard life, poison our waters, damage our public lands, and weaponize the illegal cannabis black market will be brought to justice,” Becerra said in prepared remarks.

Californians voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016, and sales became legal in 2018. However, the black market has persisted, and unlicensed marijuana grows continue to operate outside of state labor and environmenal regulations.

The CAMP marijuana eradication program dates back to the early 1980s. Prior to legalization, agencies commonly seized millions of plants from California marijuana farms, according to records kept by Humboldt State University.

In 2009, for instance, agents seized 4.5 million plants.

The CAMP effort was spearheaded by the California Department of Justice, and teams served more than 120 search warrants in 35 counties across the state.

California Attorney General's Office

“The sites, loaded with trash, banned pesticides such as carbofuran, methyl parathion, aluminum phosphate, and illegal fertilizers, discharge large quantities of these harmful products into the waterways of California,” according to the Attornery General’s Office. “Agents shut down these illegal grow sites, shielded the public from harmful chemicals, and disrupted dangerous criminal activity.”

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.