Over the last 13 weeks, state and federal law enforcement agencies have eradicated more than 1.1 million unregulated cannabis plants in California equaling 20.5 tons at 455 cultivation sites, the Associated Press reports. The campaign led to 140 arrests and the seizure of 174 weapons, Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.
The enforcement action was part of the Justice Department’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), which has been conducted annually since 1983. Officials said this year’s action was hampered by wildfires – which have devastated legal cannabis farms – and the coronavirus pandemic but the effort topped last year’s total of about 1 million plants. The largest eradication was of 293,000 plants found in Riverside County east of Los Angeles.
“I think it’s safe to say that 2020 was CAMP’s toughest and most challenging season yet in its almost 40-year history. … I bet most people would have ventured a guess that all of the top counties would have been in Northern California but … Riverside was by far the largest.” – Becerra to the AP
Officials said the action has evolved from keeping cannabis off the streets to protecting the environment and, now, protecting the state’s legal industry which is highly taxed and faces competition from the unregulated market.
The state also uses tax warrants in its enforcement against illegal cannabis operators. In July, the Department of Tax and Fee Administration said it had seized nearly $1 million in illicit cannabis products and $100,000 in cash – which would be applied to tax liabilities – during an action with the California Highway Patrol.