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Record-breaking $68.5 million illegal cannabis bust in Siskiyou County

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By Marion Rodriguez

SISKIYOU COUNTY, Calif. — Governor Gavin Newsom's office announced on Tuesday that the Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce eradicated $68.5 million worth of illegal cannabis and seized a dozen firearms in its largest operation to date.

The operation took place in July, and included 24 search warrants served between July 11 and July 13 on unlicensed commercial cannabis cultivation sites in Whitney Creek, Harry Cash, and Shasta Vistas areas in Siskiyou County.

The operation eradicated more than 67,000 of illegal cannabis plants and seized over 8,000 pounds of illegal processed cannabis, worth an estimated $68.5 million.

According to the Governor's office, the sites in question were associated with suspected environmental violations, including the use of unlawful pesticides and other toxic chemicals. The Governor's office said in a press release the dangerous chemicals not only degrade California’s natural resources, but also endanger workers and others exposed to them, adding that the Taskforce is taking aggressive action to combat organized criminal cannabis operations and growers that harm the environment and the public through the use of unlawful pesticides and toxic chemicals.

The Taskforce began operations in the summer of 2022 and is being coordinated by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services through its Homeland Security Division. The taskforce actively coordinates with federal, state, local and tribal agencies to disrupt the illegal cannabis market.

“California has an abundance of public lands set aside for conservation, recreational use and the enjoyment of the people of this state,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Unfortunately, criminal organizations are impacting these areas by exploiting some of our most pristine public lands and wildlife habitats as grow sites for cannabis.”

The CDFW says large scale illicit outdoor cannabis cultivation can be harmful to the environment.

Non-compliant cultivation sites can negatively affect wildlife, vegetation, water, soil, and other natural resources when they utilize chemicals, fertilizers and terracing, and even poach local wild animals. Illegal cannabis cultivation result in the chemical contamination and alteration of watersheds, diversion of natural water courses, elimination of native vegetation, wildfire hazards, poaching of wildlife and harmful disposal of garbage, non-biodegradable materials and human waste.

CDFW says untested cannabis products also pose safety hazards to consumers, while all illegal activity undercuts the regulated market and hurts licensed cannabis business owners.


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