California Task Force Seizes Nearly 100K Weed Plants in Three Months

October 9, 2023 · High Times

California’s Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce (UCETF) seized nearly 100,000 cannabis plants over the last three months, according to an announcement from the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. State officials lauded the seizures on Friday, saying that illegal weed grow sites pose a threat to consumer safety and are often associated with organized crime.

Bill Jones, chief of the Law Enforcement Division for the California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC), noted that the task force had focused on some of the largest unlicensed cannabis cultivation sites in California during the third quarter of 2023.

“For the last three months UCETF has been focused on larger, outdoor cannabis operations that posed a significant threat to the environment and public safety,” Jones said in a statement to the press. “Many of these illegal cannabis operations are linked to organized crime, and in addition to threatening the environment and communities, the products these operations pose a direct threat to consumer health and the stability of the legal cannabis market.”

More Than Thirty Tons Of Weed Seized

For the three months that ended on September 30, the UCETF eradicated a total of 98,054 illicit cannabis plants, down from the 120,970 plants seized in the second quarter of this year. The task force also confiscated 61,415.75 pounds of cannabis, which was nearly on par with the 66,315.01 pounds of weed seized over the previous three months. State officials noted, however, that the totals for the third quarter were achieved through the serving of 60 search warrants, a 35% reduction in the number of search warrants served in Q2.

The task force also confiscated 69 firearms during raids at unlicensed marijuana cultivation facilities between July and September, a 363% increase compared to the previous quarter. The searches during the third quarter resulted in no seizures of cash, however, while $223,809 in cash was confiscated during the preceding three months. 

“Over the past quarter, UCTEF conducted several highly coordinated operations that will disrupt the illegal supply chain and improve consumer and public safety. The task force focused on rural areas where illegal cultivators have been conducting unlicensed operations,” said Nathaniel Arnold, acting chief of Enforcement for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “These enforcement numbers represent the hard work and commitment from our multiagency teams. I applaud our officers and partner agencies who worked tirelessly to identify these clandestine operations and provide a good measure of public and consumer safety.”

The UCETF also reported that the cannabis seized as search warrants were being served last quarter has an estimated street value of $101,349,657, down nearly $8 million from the $109,277,688.94 estimate from the previous quarter.

Police estimations of the street value of seized marijuana, however, are routinely inflated and have been for years. Instead of reporting the wholesale value of the weed confiscated from large operations, law enforcement officials will often value cannabis based on the gray market price of one gram, increasing the estimate greatly but misleadingly.

“Inflating valuations of drug busts in the press” is a “fairly common tactic in law enforcement,” as Alex Kreit, a law professor at Northern Kentucky University and director of the school’s Center on Addiction Law & Policy, said in an email to Forbes in 2021.

“That’s not to say it is legitimate; I think it is incredibly misleading,” he added. “But I do believe it’s common.”

Task Force Created Last Year

The UCETF is a multi-departmental effort created through California Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2022-2023 budget to target illegal cannabis operations. The task force works closely with the DCC, the CDFW, and the Homeland Security Division of the California Office of Emergency Services. The UCETF has been charged with coordinating state efforts and increasing cannabis enforcement cooperation between state, local and federal partners. 

The task force has been actively working since late summer 2022 and has been taking aggressive action in an effort to protect communities, consumers and the environment. Since its inception, the UCETF has eradicated 277,314 plants and seized 101 firearms, according to data from the task force. (Full Story)

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