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California is changing how it goes after illegal cannabis farms

Here's what California counties had the most illegal cannabis plants in 2022


By KURT SNIBBE | ksnibbe@scng.com | Orange County Register


PUBLISHED: April 16, 2023 at 8:00 a.m. | UPDATED: April 16, 2023 at 8:46 p.m.


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Fighting the illicit pot market

It’s been five years since recreational cannabis sales began in California. Many have played by the rules, but the illegal growth and sale of the plant continue to undermine those obeying the laws.


Since its establishment in 1983, the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) has had more than 110 law enforcement agencies involved, making it one of the largest law enforcement task forces in the U.S.

But things are changing.


California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced CAMP seized nearly 1 million illegally cultivated cannabis plants and more than 200,000 pounds of illegally processed cannabis. Bonta also announced that the Department of Justice will be phasing out CAMP in favor of a year-round multi-agency program, Eradication and Prevention of Illicit Cannabis (EPIC).



What is EPIC



The EPIC program focuses on the investigation and prosecution of civil and criminal cases relating to illicit cannabis cultivation with a focus on environmental and economic harms and labor exploitation.



Beginning in 2022, EPIC transitioned the Department of Justice’s 30-year seasonal eradication program into a year-round task force.


EPIC is a multi-agency collaboration led by DOJ in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service; the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service; the California Department of Fish and Wildlife; the U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration; the California National Guard, Counter Drug Task Force; the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program; California State Parks; and other local law enforcement departments.




EPIC works in close coordination with DOJ’s Cannabis Control Section, Special Prosecutions Section and Tax Recovery and Underground Economy Task Force to build investigations and prosecute civil and criminal cases.



The figures listed above are from the state.


In June 2022, the 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%) and arrests (60%) nationwide took place in California.


You can report an illegal business anonymously online at cannabis.ca.gov


California’s divide


Cannabis use is legal in California, but cities and counties can prohibit cannabis businesses.

As a result, the state is a patchwork of areas where it is and is not legal to establish a cannabis business.


Proposition 64 passed in 2016 with 57.1% of the voters in favor of the legalization of marijuana for adults 21 or older.


You can find more details about this by using this map. Zoom into your town here.


The Department of Cannabis Control has a list of licensed retailers and a searchable map.


Sources: California Department of Cannabis Control, State Attorney General’s Office, NewFrontierData, Norml.org, MJBizDaily


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