Department of Cannabis Control slated to seize $1 billion worth of illegal cannabis products
CALIFORNIA – As the California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) enters its second year of operations, it expects to seize more than $1 billion worth of illegal cannabis products – enforcement efforts that keep untested and potentially dangerous cannabis products off the market and help eliminate unfair competition against licensed operators.
Working closely with local, state, and federal partners, over the last year the DCC law enforcement team has led and assisted in the service of 208 search warrants, seized more than half a million pounds of illegal product, and eradicated over 1.38 million cannabis plants. This effort has removed $961 million worth of potentially harmful products, $2.3 million in illegally obtained assets, and 105 illegal firearms from the unlicensed market.
“We want Californians to become more aware of the harms that come from the illicit market. A purchase from the illegal market can be a purchase in support of criminal and cartel operations that endanger consumer health, communities, destroy natural habitats, and threaten the viability of our legal operators,” said DCC Director Nicole Elliott. “The illegal cannabis operations that we enforce against are not just engaging in illegal commercial cannabis activity, they are engaging in violence, human trafficking, water theft, animal cruelty and other forms of harmful criminal activity.”
DCC’s enforcement team focuses its investigations on large-scale operators and criminal enterprises engaging in unlicensed distribution, manufacturing, retail, and indoor cultivation while supporting local and state law enforcement partners with outdoor unlicensed cultivations and other illegal commercial cannabis operators in their respective jurisdictions. In doing this work, the team engages with local police departments and sheriff’s offices to coordinate enforcement actions and local District Attorney’s offices who can then bring charges against individuals operating in the illicit cannabis market.
“We want to protect Californians and make it as expensive as possible to operate in the illegal market and we do that by hitting illegal operators where it hurts — shutting off their access to cash, seizing assets, and keeping illegal products from hitting the market,” Deputy Director of Enforcement, Bill Jones said.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department lauded DCC for its partnership, particularly that related to constant participation in “Operation Hammer Strike.” Over the past year, at least once a week, DCC enforcement officials have deployed 10-15 investigators to work with the San Bernardino law enforcement teams as they shut down large-scale, illegal outdoor cannabis cultivation operations. The operations DCC participated in have so far resulted in the seizure and destruction of approximately 57,000 cannabis plants, 223 hoop houses, and over 2,000 pounds of processed, untested cannabis flower to date. These ongoing efforts also resulted in the arrest of 38 suspects on charges that include illegal water discharge, weapons charges, conspiracy and others.
“I appreciate DCC’s support and effort throughout San Bernardino County; this is not just a local problem, it’s a statewide issue that requires support from our state and federal partners,” said Shannon Dicus, San Bernardino Sheriff-Coroner.
The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department also applauded DCC for its help with two major weeks-long, joint illicit cannabis cultivation eradication operations over the last year. “Operation Green Day” resulted in the seizure of nearly $55.7 million worth of illicit cannabis plants, products, and illegally obtained cash. Ninety people were arrested on a range of charges, including for child endangerment and weapons violations. Additionally, referrals were made for elder abuse and animal cruelty and 12 illegal firearms were taken off the premises.
“DCC has been a great partner and has assisted us on multiple operations in Stanislaus County. Their support has allowed us to eradicate dozens of additional illegal grows, keeping our community safer,” said Jeff Dirske, Stanislaus County Sheriff.
DCC also works with state agencies, including the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, State Water Resources Control Board, California Highway Patrol, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Industrial Labor Relations, and others.
“We are proud to be working with the DCC and have partnered with them on numerous enforcement actions on illicit cannabis cultivation sites both indoors and outdoors,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “I look forward to continuing this collaborative effort that supports the regulated market, while protecting California’s natural resources and ensuring public safety with products that are lab tested and safe for public consumption.”
Capitalizing on shared intelligence and different enforcement strategies, the Department continues to benefit from these local and state partnerships as it engages in an increasing number of larger operations that span regions and the illegal supply chain. Just last month, DCC worked with local and state agencies to serve 11 search warrants on unlicensed cannabis retailers and distributors located throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties. The operation resulted in the seizure of 1,501 pounds of cannabis flower, 1,002 pounds of cannabis concentrates, 995 pounds of cannabis edibles and 1,268 pounds of vape cartridges with an estimated retail value of nearly $10.6 million. DCC detectives also seized more than 102 pounds of illicit drugs, four firearms, and more than $509,000 in cash.
“Together with our partners across government, we are determined to enforce our state’s laws and level the playing field for those who follow the rules,” said CDTFA Director Nick Maduros. “Unlicensed cannabis operators undercut legitimate businesses and cheat California communities out of revenue for vital programs.”
To enhance state efforts combatting illegal commercial cannabis activity, the Department recently co-led a convening of state regulatory and enforcement partners to discuss cannabis enforcement and information-sharing opportunities. This convening represents the beginning of a larger state effort to more effectively and strategically utilize the full breadth of federal, state, and local civil, criminal, and administrative tools to combat the illegal market.
The DCC licenses and regulates commercial cannabis activity within California and works closely with all stakeholders, including businesses and local jurisdictions to create a sustainable legal cannabis industry and a safe and equitable marketplace. The DCC develops and implements progressive cannabis policies with robust protections for public health, safety, and the environment. The DCC was formed in 2021 by merging the three state programs previously responsible for regulating commercial cannabis activity.
To learn more about the California cannabis market, state licenses and laws, and to locate legal cannabis retailers near you, visit www.cannabis.ca.gov.