News

California eradicates 1.1 million illegal marijuana plants

LOS ANGELES (AP) – California’s annual campaign against illegal marijuana cultivation eradicated more than 1.1 million plants and 20.5 tons (18,597 kilograms) of processed pot at 455 grow sites despite difficulties because of coronavirus precautions and massive wildfires, officials said Thursday.

The 13-week effort by state, local and federal agencies in 29 counties led to arrests of 140 people and seizures of 174 weapons, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.

The state Department of Justice’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting has been conducted yearly since 1983. This year, time was lost to virus-related training and because of wildfires but the eradication topped last year’s total of just under 1 million plants.

“I think it’s safe to say that 2020 was CAMP’s toughest and most challenging season yet in its almost 40-year history,” Becerra said.

CAMP has long been associated with the forests and mountains of the far north, but this year’s biggest haul – 293,000 plants – occurred in Riverside County, which lies east of Los Angeles.

“I bet most people would have ventured a guess that all of the top counties would have been in Northern California but … Riverside was by far the largest,” Becerra said.

The rest of the top five were in the north, Tulare, with more than 105,000 plants, followed by Trinity, Lake and Siskiyou counties.

Becerra and other officials of the campaign noted that the effort has evolved into concerns about protecting land, streams, rivers from illegal pesticides and fertilizers, waterway diversions and trash associated with illegal marijuana grows.

CAMP now is also a means to defend California’s highly taxed legal cannabis industry, which is beleaguered by robust competition from cheaper and unregulated illegal products.

“Not all cannabis cultivators have chosen to play by the rules and operate in our state’s legal marketplace. We have to do our job,” Becerra said.

The illegal grows were found on public and private lands, often in extremely rugged terrain that is difficult to access, and usually operated by criminal organizations, the attorney general said.