CAMP Posts Record Take: Over 1 Million Plants

Autumn 2005. Attorney General Bill Lockyer announced that the 2005 Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) program eradicated a new all-time record of 1,134,692 plants in California (AG's release). This yearıs total far exceeds last yearıs record of 621,315 plants.

Officials estimated the value of the destroyed crop at $4.5 billion, or $4000 per plant. This corresponds to about one pound net yield per plant at current retail prices. (Although it is hard to estimate average plant yields, one pound seems high under the difficult conditions faced by illicit growers, according to cultivation expert Chris Conrad. A more realistic yield might be on the order of three or four ounces, or $1,000 per plant.) In any case, the total economic losses due to CAMP seem large enough to qualify as a major economic disaster. California NORML estimates that a legal marijuana market could yield the state some $1 to $2 billion per year in tax revenues and cost savings.

Shasta County recorded the most plants seized with 214,319, followed by Lake County with 133,441 and Tulare County with 133,038. Only 10% of this yearıs take came from the ³Emerald Triangle² counties of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity. Experienced growers there have increasingly turned toward indoor gardens, which lie largely outside CAMP surveillance.

CAMP officials say they have seen a "lot of movement to broad expanses of public lands." They point to an epidemic of large-scale plantations with tens of thousands of plants grown by Mexican workers. Authorities have repeatedly blamed this on Mexican"cartels." However, California NORML disputes this charge, noting that the definition of a cartel is a combination of producers who conspire to control the market. "There's no evidence that the marijuana market is controlled by an organized crime conspiracy," says California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer, "These are just a bunch of independent Mexican pot growing outfits competing in the black market."