the California Unified Hemp Law Enforcement Team (UCETF) recently announced its progress in “aggressively” combating the illegal cannabis market.
Between January 1 and March 30, the UCETF shared that there was a 43% increase in the number of plants wiped out (52,529 plants in the first quarter of 2023 compared to 29,687 in the fourth quarter of 2023). 2022). The agency also filed 21 orders in the first quarter of the year, compared to 30 in the previous quarter (a 30% decrease).
The agency removed 31,912 pounds of cannabis, which is the equivalent of a 43% increase From Q4 plant eradication of 29,687 plants. Between the last two quarters, there was a 39% increase in the retail value of seized cannabis products ($32 million vs. $52.6 million). The most recent UCETF seizures earlier this year also recorded an 87% increase in money seized over volume during searches, with $95,646 in the first quarter of 2023 compared to just $12,602 in the fourth quarter of 2022.
Chief of Law Enforcement Bill Jones said in a press release that working with the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) has resulted in a higher rate of success and seizures. “Because DCC’s law enforcement division focuses on illegal indoor farming, unlicensed dispensaries, and unlicensed manufacturing and distribution operations, UCETF’s multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional approach allows us to leverage the expertise of each participating division to disrupt a broader range of illegal businesses.” Jones said. “Significantly improving our results speaks volumes about our efficacy and will help support the legal cannabis market.”
David Pace, chief of enforcement for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, stated that the overall increase in numbers will continue to rise. “This multi-agency working group has hit the ground running, giving partners the opportunity to contribute in their area of expertise. UCETF is quickly making an impact on the illegal cannabis supply chain, which in turn helps the regulated market succeed,” Pace said. “The gains and successes of the Task Force speak directly to the efficiency and dedication of this multi-agency collaboration and we expect to see this kind of continued success throughout the year as UCEFT moves into the outdoor planting enforcement season.”
The UCETF was created through California Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2022-2023 budget to target illegal cannabis operations through a multi-departmental effort. It works closely with the DCC, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as the Department of Homeland Security in Cal’s Office of Emergency Services. It also partners with several California agencies such as the California Highway Patrol, Department of Justice, Department of Public Health, Workforce and Labor Development Agency, and many more.
UCETF has been operating since summer 2022, but at October 2022 It announced its first major crackdown on a site in the San Fernando Valley. “California is taking immediate and determined action to stop illegal cannabis and promote a thriving legal market across the state,” Newsom said in a press release at the time. “By shutting down illegal grow sites and applying severe consequences to violators, we work to curb the criminal organizations that undermine California’s regulated cannabis market.”
Since last year, the UCETF has seized $84,652,875 in unlicensed cannabis products, eliminated 82,216 plants, and filed 51 search warrants to date.
In August 2022, DCC issued announce that between 2021-2022, it was state law enforcement Seized more than a billion dollars worth of illegal cannabis products. “This important milestone was reached by working closely with local, state, and federal partners and advancing California’s efforts to pursue activities that harm communities and the environment, including water theft, threats of violence, elder abuse, and human trafficking to name a few,” DCC Books. “These processes and products they produce threaten consumer safety and the vitality of legal and compliant licensors.”
While some government agencies target illegal operations, others are reviewing the negative effects of the war on drugs. The Compensation Working Group recently released a detailed report on compensationultimately recommending that “community damages be provided as consolidated payments based on how long the eligible recipient resided in California during the specified period of the damage (for example, residency in an overly controlled community during the ‘War on Drugs’ from 1971 through 2020).” The task force will meet again before submitting its final report June 29th.