California AG Announces New Efforts To Address Unlicensed Weed Grows

California Attorney General Rob Bonta has announced new efforts to tackle unlicensed marijuana cultivation in the state, saying the illegal weed market still outstrips the regulated cannabis industry. . Bonta also announced that the Campaign Against Marijuana Growing (CAMP), an annual effort to eliminate illegal cannabis growing sites in California, has eradicated nearly one million unlicensed cannabis plants this year.

“The illegal market is more important than the legal market” bonta said at a press conference on Tuesday. “It’s upside down. Our goal is to completely eradicate the illegal market.”

Bonta said CAMP will eliminate nearly 1 million illegal cannabis plants by 2022 and operates in 26 counties across California. The attorney general also announced an enhancement to the annual CAMP program, which typically runs for about three months during the marijuana growing season, to include activities to address the unlicensed cannabis market throughout the year. Bonta characterized the year-round effort, called the Elimination and Prevention of Illegal Cannabis (EPIC) program, as a “significant shift in mindset and mission.” In addition to combating unlicensed cannabis cultivation, EPIC also tackles the broader illegal market and prosecutes crimes related to the underground marijuana economy, including labor violations and environmental crimes.

“California has the largest safe, legal and regulated cannabis market in the world, but unfortunately illegal and unlicensed cannabis continues to proliferate.” Bonta said in a statement From the California Department of Justice. “The California Department of Justice’s CAMP task force works tirelessly each year to eradicate illegal farmland and reclaim public lands, but closing these farmlands is no longer enough. With the move, we are taking the next step and building our commitment to address the environmental and economic harm and labor exploitation associated with this underground market. We would like to thank all our local, state and federal partners for their continued efforts to address this issue through the EPIC Task Force.”

CAMP Mixed Legacy in California

The CAMP program is a multi-agency task force first formed in 1983 to combat the illegal cannabis growing industry in California. CAMP operations have been led by the California Department of Justice in partnership with the US Forest Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Park Service. California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Drug Enforcement Administration of the U.S. Department of Justice. California National Guard, and other federal, state, and local agencies.

CAMP’s efforts have received mixed reviews from the California cannabis community, with some legal cannabis operators praising their efforts to control the state’s multi-billion dollar illegal marijuana economy. However, offensive weapons, including the use of helicopters and the frequent display of automatic weapons and other firearms, are egregious examples of government excesses that have terrorized rural families and communities for decades. Others point to a history of campaigns of paramilitary tactics.

During the 2022 cannabis growing season, CAMP teams operated across California, conducting 449 operations in 26 counties and seizing nearly a million unauthorized plants and over 200,000 pounds of processed cannabis. Law enforcement officers also recovered 184 weapons and removed some 67,000 pounds of cultivation infrastructure, including dams, water pipes and containers of toxic chemicals such as pesticides and illegal fertilizers.

EPIC works all year round

Seasonal CAMP efforts will continue as part of the new year-round EPIC program. EPIC also investigates crimes such as environmental crimes and employment violations against illegal growers. Workers at illegal cannabis cultivation sites are often victims of human trafficking, Bonta said, adding, “For months, they live alone in atrocious conditions with no way out. They are not the people who are profiting from the cannabis industry. They are being abused, they are the victims. They are cogs in a much bigger, more organized machine.”

EPIC is also tasked with combating the effects of organized crime in California’s illegal marijuana market. Karen Morrissen, California director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, said his 80% of the 44 illegal growing sites found on and around the agency’s property in 2022 will be linked to drug trafficking rings. pointed out.

“It’s clear that there are big challenges with organized crime,” Bonta said. However, he added that he expects better results at EPIC.

Graham Farrar, co-founder and president of California-licensed cannabis company Glass House Group, has urged officials to reform the state’s cannabis tax structure and focus EPIC efforts on unlicensed dispensaries. I asked for

“No one wants California’s legal cannabis market to be more successful than Glasshouse, but CAMP is a failed policy and the new name won’t change that,” Farrar said in an email. said: high times“The best solution is to lower taxes and have more retail outlets for licensed producers so we can have a level playing field to beat the competition and eliminate illegal markets.” We continue to believe that we urge AG and local jurisdictions to focus on the illegal retail activities that are more threatening today’s legal cannabis market.”

The move to EPIC follows last week’s announcement from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) that California Gov. Gavin Newsom designed to better coordinate efforts to combat illegal cannabis operations. It indicates that it has directed the creation of a new multi-agency, cross-jurisdictional task force. and international criminal organizations.

Active since late summer, the new “Universal Cannabis Enforcement Task Force” is co-chaired by the Cannabis Control Agency and the CDFW and coordinated by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) through the Department of Homeland Security. increase. Split. The task force is tasked with coordinating state efforts and enhancing enforcement coordination among state, local, and federal partners.

“We cannot allow harmful and illegal cannabis operations to destroy the environment or threaten our communities,” said Mark Giralducci, Cal OES director and Newsom homeland security adviser. CDFW said in a statement“We are combining state, local and federal law enforcement resources to orchestrate coordinated enforcement action against these villains and criminal gangs.”

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