California agency continues to target illegal cannabis activity

The California Unified Cannabis Enforcement Task Force (UCETF) recently announced its progress in the “aggressive” fight against the illegal cannabis market.

Between January 1 and March 30, UCETF shared that there was a 43% increase in the number of plants eradicated (52,529 plants in Q1 2023 compared to 29,687 in Q4 2022). The agency also served 21 arrest warrants in the first quarter of the year, compared to 30 in the prior quarter (a 30% decrease).

The agency eradicated 31,912 pounds of cannabis, which is a 43% increase from the eradication of 29,687 plants in the fourth quarter. Between the two most recent quarters, there was a 39% increase in terms of the retail value of seized cannabis products ($32 million vs. $52.6 million). The most recent UCETF seizures earlier this year also led to an 87% increase in the size of money seized during searches, with $95,646 in Q1 2023 compared to just $12,602 in Q4 2022.

Law Enforcement Division chief Bill Jones said in a press release that working with the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) has led to a higher success and seizure rate. “As DCC’s Division of Law Enforcement targets illegal indoor grows, unlicensed dispensaries, and unlicensed manufacturing and distribution operations, UCETF’s multi-agency, cross-jurisdictional approach allows us to leverage the expertise of each participating department to disrupt a broader scope of illegal business,” Jones said. “Significantly improving our results speaks to our effectiveness and will help support the legal cannabis market.”

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Chief of Enforcement David Bess stated that the overall increase in numbers will continue to rise. “This multi-agency working group has become operational, allowing partners the opportunity to contribute in their area of ​​expertise. UCETF has had a rapid impact on the illegal cannabis supply chain, which in turn is helping the success of the regulated market,” Bess said. “The gains and successes achieved by the task force speak directly to the efficiency and dedication of this multi-agency collaboration and we look forward to seeing this type of continued success throughout the year as UCEFT moves into crop compliance season.” outdoor”.

The UCETF was created through California Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2022-2023 budget to address illegal cannabis operations through a multi-department effort. It works closely with the DCC, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as the Homeland Security Division of the California Office of Emergency Services. It also collaborates with numerous California agencies, such as the California Highway Patrol, Department of Justice, Department of Public Health, Labor and Employment Development Agency, and many more.

UCETF has been operating since the summer of 2022, but in October 2022 it announced its first major crackdown at a site in the San Fernando Valley. “California is taking immediate and aggressive steps to stop illegal cannabis and strengthen the burgeoning legal market across the state,” Newsom said in a press release at the time. “By shutting down illegal grow sites and applying severe consequences to violators, we are working to reduce criminal organizations that are undermining California’s regulated cannabis market.”

Since last year, UCETF has seized $84,652,875 worth of unlicensed cannabis products, eradicated 82,216 plants, and served 51 search warrants to date.

In August 2022, the DCC announced that between 2021 and 2022, state law enforcement had seized more than $1 billion in illegal cannabis products. “This important milestone was achieved through close collaboration with local, state and federal partners and furthers California’s efforts to prosecute activities that harm communities and the environment, including theft of water, threats of violence, abuse of elderly and human trafficking, to name a few. the DCC wrote. “These operations and the products they produce threaten consumer safety and the vitality of legal and compliant licensees.”

While some government agencies are focusing on illegal operations, others are reviewing the negative impacts of the War on Drugs. The Reparations Task Force recently released a detailed report on the reparations, ultimately recommending “that community damage compensation be provided as flat payments based on an eligible beneficiary’s length of residence in California during the defined period of harm (eg, residence in a policed ​​over-community during the ‘War on Drugs’ from 1971 to 2020)”. The working group will meet one more time before presenting its final report on June 29.