Cannabis Suppression / Eradication Programs in California

UPDATE 8/29/2023 – AG Bonta traveled to Fresno to announce the DOJ’s new Cannabis Administrative Prosecutor Program (CAPP). The program provides California cities and counties who partner with DOJ legal support to address illegal cannabis activity through administrative enforcement and nuisance abatement. Read more.

Three taskforces, two state and one federal, currently target illegal cannabis grows in California:

  1. The Attorney General has expanded and renamed the CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) program as EPIC (Eradication and Prevention of Illicit Cannabis), aimed at human trafficking and environmental crimes at illicit cannabis grows.
  2. The Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce (UCETF), created in 2022, has been charged by Governor Newsom to “better align state efforts and increase cannabis enforcement coordination among state, local and federal partners.” The taskforce is co-chaired by the DCC (Department of Cannabis Control) and CDFW (California Department of Fish and Wildlife) and coordinated by the Homeland Security Division of Cal OES. The taskforce includes more than two dozen local, state and federal partners working together to disrupt the illegal cannabis market.

3. And the DEA continues its Domestic Cannabis Suppression/Eradication Program, begun in Hawaii and California in 1979, for which the overwhelming percentage of plant seizures and arrests nationwide take place in California.

NEWS: 8/8/2023 – Governor’s Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce Targets Environmental Harm In Largest Ever Operation To Eradicate Illegal Cannabis Grows In Siskiyou County
The operation included 24 search warrants, served between July 11 through 13 on unlicensed commercial cannabis cultivation sites in the Whitney Creek, Harry Cash, and Shasta Vistas areas in Siskiyou County. It eradicated 67,045 illegal cannabis plants, seized 8,019.75 pounds of illegal processed cannabis, worth an estimated $68.5 million, and seized a dozen firearms.

7/5/2023 – California’s statewide cannabis enforcement taskforce continues to aggressively combat illegal market by seizing over $109M worth of unlicensed cannabis products in Q2 2023
Building upon the momentum in Q1 2023, the Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce (UCETF) seized more than $109 million in illegal cannabis in Q2 2023. This total represents a 104 percent increase from the $52 million in unlicensed cannabis and cannabis products in Q1 2023. Additional highlights from the period April 1, 2023, through June 30, 2023, include a 130 percent gain in the number of plants eradicated and a 375 percent increase in the number of firearms seized. 

6/27/2023 – Illegal Marijuana Cultivation Down Says Mendocino County Sheriff Who Gives Stats on Last Week’s Busts
During the week of 06/19/2023 the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Marijuana team completed several investigations in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. We also received assistance in personnel and equipment from the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office the California State Water Board, and the California State Department of Cannabis Control.
Search warrants were executed on 11 properties. In total our teams eradicated 26,039 plants. Seized 5,520 pounds of processed marijuana, and 5 firearms. Also seized was $14,900.00 in cash under asset forfeiture laws. There were 81 violations of the California Fish and Game code which included 12 water diversions and 1 illegally taken black tail deer.

8/8/2023 – Statewide Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce Conducts Massive Central Valley Operation on Outdoor Grow Sites and Nets Over $42 Million of Illegal Cannabis
UCETF conducted a highly coordinated operation in Kern, Tulare and Kings counties on May 11 and 12. The extensive multiagency operation served 51 search warrants on 52 illicit cannabis cultivation sites, resulting in over 50,000 illicit cannabis plants being eradicated and over 1,300 pounds of processed cannabis destroyed. Officers located six sites with banned pesticides/chemicals that illegal growers were using on their cannabis crops. Thirteen firearms were also seized along with 125 grams of cocaine. Personnel from 13 different state and local agencies, including 130 officers, participated in the operation, which had been coordinated for many preceding weeks.

5/22/2023 – California’s statewide cannabis enforcement taskforce continues to aggressively combat illegal market by seizing over $52M worth of unlicensed cannabis products in Q1 2023
UCETF reported 29,687 plants seized in Q4 2022 and 52,529 plants seized from January through March 2023, a 43 percent gain in the number of plants eradicated over the two quarters. By targeting larger cultivation operations, UCETF was able to improve its quarter-over-quarter results despite serving 30 percent fewer search warrants. It also increased the amount of money seized in the two quarters from $12,602 to $95,646.

5/23/2023 – After a sharp uptick in confiscated cannabis in 2021, plant eradications in 2022 largely leveled out, according to figures published in the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program Statistical Report. By contrast, arrests and assets seized fell significantly year over year. As in past years, California led the nation in seizures and arrests (88 percent of all confiscated cannabis, up from 86 percent the year before; 52 percent of all arrests, down from 60 percent the year before). Plant numbers reported for 2022 were 4,024,055 in California vs. 4,765,737 in 2021. For arrests, the figures were 2,611 in 2022 and

California’s high tax rates and municipal bans on cannabis retailers have made it difficult for the legal market to supplant the unregulated marijuana marketplace. In addition, “California has always exported the majority of its marijuana crop out of state and the adoption of adult-use legalization in the Golden State has done little to change this fact,” said California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer. “Illegal marijuana cultivation will persist in California so long as there remains a substantial demand from other states and as long as interstate commerce remains prohibited by federal law.”

10/11/2022 – CA AG Bonta announced CAMP seized nearly one million illegally cultivated cannabis plants and more than 200,000 pounds of illegally processed cannabis in 2022. The AG also announced that DOJ will be phasing out CAMP in favor of a year-round multiagency program, EPIC (Eradication and Prevention of Illicit Cannabis), aimed at human trafficking and environmental crimes at illicit cannabis grows.

6/21/22 – DEA announced it seized nearly 5 million plants from California in 2021 as part of its Domestic Cannabis Suppression / Eradication Program. As in past years, the overwhelming percentage of plant seizures (86 percent) and arrests (60 percent) nationwide took place in California.

The number of plants reported taken from California in 2021—4,765,737—is a significant increase from 2020’s figure of 3,740,368 plants, and includes 3,987,073 plants from 2,445 outdoor sites and 778,664 plants from 647 indoor sites. DEA also reported 3,988 arrests and 8,908 weapons seized, estimating the value of its seizures at $39 million for 647,035 pounds of marijuana, plus 348,193 ounces of waxes/oils and 233,104 ounces of edibles.

10/18/2021 – Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the seizure of nearly 1.2 million plants in 2021 by the interagency CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) program and announced a six-month review of the program.

“Illegal and unlicensed marijuana planting is bad for our environment, bad for our economy, and bad for the health and safety of our communities,” said Bonta. “Today, I’m directing my office to review the CAMP program and ensure that we are using our resources to effectively address the environmental, labor, and economic impacts of illegal cultivation. From dumping toxic chemicals in our waterways to cheating the state out of millions of tax dollars, illicit marijuana grows have far-reaching impacts and unintended consequences. I want to thank all of our federal, state, and local partners for their tireless efforts this season. It’s going to take all of us, working together, to make sure California’s cannabis industry is in the legal, regulated marketplace, not in the illicit one.”

5/14/21 – The DEA announced it seized 3,740,368 marijuana plants in California in 2020. Commenting on the national scene, NORML noted, “As in past years, the overwhelming percentage of plant seizures (82 percent) and arrests (40 percent) nationwide took place in California.”

This represents an increase from 2019, when it the agency said it eradicated 3,186,301 plants in California. DEA claims to have seized 3.77 million plants from CA in 2016; 3.98 million in 2011; and 7.5 million in 2009.

In 2018, the same year that California began permitting licensed adult-use sales of cannabis, marijuana plant seizures fell nearly 30 percent from the prior year. In February 2019 however, the Governor announced the deployment of national guard troops to track down on illicit marijuana grow operations, an effort which may have played a role in the sudden uptick in seizures in 2019. (Also see: National Guard Joins Local, Fed & State Agencies in Anza Raids.)

10/9/2020 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the eradication of more than 1.1 million marijuana plants across 455 grow sites as part of the California Department of Justice’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) program. Over the course of a 13-week season – and despite unprecedented challenges from COVID-19 and wildfires (which, one could argue, should have been priorities over marijuana enforcement) – the multi-agency campaign conducted operations in 29 counties, arresting 140 individuals and seizing 174 weapons.

This represents a slight increase from 2019’s CAMP total of 953,459 marijuana plants from 345 raided grow sites across the state. CAMP hit its peak in 2009, when nearly 4.5 million plants were reportedly destroyed.

The legal cannabis market has been hampered in California by over regulation and taxation at state and local levels, and by federal prohibition, all things that Cal NORML is seeking to change.

November 4, 2019 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced today the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) Program eradicated 953,459 marijuana plants from 345 raided grow sites across the state.

This year’s CAMP activities represent an increase from last year’s reported take of some 600K plants.  It’s not as high was 2017’s reported take of 1,260,000 plants or 2016’s over 1.5 million claim. 
CAMP hit its peak in 2009, when nearly 4.5 million plants were reportedly taken out. The program was ended around 2012 under Brown’s administration, but by 2015 it was back, with a reported take of 832,085 plants. 

Meanwhile, the Feds have also been taking plants out of California, both indoor and outdoor, through DEA’s suppression program. In 2018, 1.8 million plants were reported taken, also down from 3.8 million in 2016 and a reported 7.5 million in 2009.

Attorney General Becerra Announces 2018 CAMP Data
October 4, 2018 – 614,267 plants eradicated in over 254 illegal grow sites in 40 counties across the state. Watch the press conference

State task force busts 254 illegal cannabis grows; half as many plants as last year eradicated 10/4/2018

Secret marijuana gardens target of eradication campaign on North Coast Press Democrat, 7/29/16

Cannabis Seizures Plummet in 2015

DEA Domestic Cannabis Eradication Program claims it eradicated 2.7 million plants in California in 2013.

February 15, 2013 – Requiem for CAMP: The life and death of a domestic U.S. drug war institution International Journal of Drug Policy

August 2, 2012 – Last year, it was announced that Gov. Brown was terminating the CAMP program for budgetary reasons.  The CAMP budget was only around a couple of million dollars. According to the report below, however,  the feds are putting far more money into MJ eradication in California:

DEA: Marijuana Plant Seizures Down 35 Percent Nationwide
EXCERPT: According to the GAO, the fund paid out approximately $79 million to California law enforcement agencies, the most in the nation, for their participation in federal raids and seizures….The DEA further reported having seized over $11 million in assets associated with its eradication efforts in California.

California decides to strike CAMP
July 25, 2012

CAMP Eradicates 4.3 Million Plants – More Than State’s Annual Consumption
October 30, 2010 – California’s CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) marijuana eradication reported 4,320,314 plant seizures in 2010, slightly less than last year’s all-time record of 4,463,917. Read more.

California’s Top 40 Cannabis Counties (2009)

2008 CAMP Report (with yearly totals)

“Of the 2.9 million pot plants seized during the state’s 2008 Campaign Against Marijuana Production, 70 percent were on public land. … [The culprits] are believed to be mostly Mexican nationals working for drug cartels back home. … BLM [Bureau of Land Management] law enforcement officials estimate it costs $1 to $2 to eradicate each plant and four times that to clean up the mess left behind by growers, [Gary] Sharpe [, associate field manager with the Bureau of Land Management’s Ukiah office] said. … The U.S. Forest Service does not receive money specifically for pot garden cleanups, but the California division set aside $350,000 of its budget to clean up 30 sites in California …”
Source: Press Democrat

State haul this year: 5 million pot plants(included totals from other programs)

U.S. Justice Department’s National Drug Threat Assessment 2008
“Federal, state, and local law enforcement reporting indicates that vigorous outdoor cannabis eradication efforts have caused major marijuana producers, particularly Caucasian groups, to relocate indoors, even in leading outdoor grow states such as California and Tennessee.”

CAMP eradication statistics have soared in recent years; last year saw an all-time record of 2.9 million plants, up from 1.6 million in 2006.

“Southern Sweep” Hits Northern California

NORML Statement to UN NGO Consultation on Narcotic Drugs ­ Vancouver, Feb 4th-5th, 2008

CAMP Posts Record Take: Over 1 Million Plants 2005