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California takes action to combat illicit cannabis grows & transnational criminal organizations

Oct 5, 2022

CDFW, Cal OES, and DCC logos

New multi-agency enforcement taskforce is working to disrupt the
illegal market

SACRAMENTO – Taking aggressive action to protect communities, consumers, and the environment alike, Governor Gavin Newsom has directed the creation of a new multi-agency, cross-jurisdictional taskforce of enforcement agencies designed to better coordinate agencies combatting illegal cannabis operations and transnational criminal organizations.

This new “Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce,” which has been actively working since late summer, is co-chaired by the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and is being coordinated by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) through its Homeland Security Division.  The taskforce has been charged by the Governor to better align state efforts and increase enforcement coordination between state, local and federal partners.

“The State of California is committed to combatting illicit commercial cannabis activity which is causing pervasive harm to California communities, the environment, consumers and legal cannabis businesses,” said Nicole Elliott, Director of the Department of Cannabis Control. 

“We cannot allow harmful, illicit cannabis operations to lay waste to the environment or threaten our communities. we are bringing together the combined law enforcement resources of our state local and federal agencies in a coordinated enforcement action against these bad actors and criminal organizations,” said Mark Ghilarducci, Director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, and the Governor’s Homeland Security Advisor.

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

Since its inception, the task force has been actively coordinating with federal, state, local, and tribal agencies to disrupt this illegal market, including:  

  • Combatting the non-linear threat of transnational crime that extends to areas of California beyond the border and into some of most rural parts of the state.
  • Establishing a new data sharing agreement which allows state and local enforcement officials to more broadly share information and cross-match data across jurisdictions. 
  • Leveraging and better aligning the authorities and legal provisions of federal, state, and local law enforcement and regulatory agencies in conducting search warrants, indictments and maximizing arrests and prosecution of perpetrators. While also maximizing administrative, regulatory, and civil penalties for bad actors.
  • Disrupting human traffickers and illegal firearm and drug smugglers.
  • Interdicting illegal cannabis shipments crossing California’s borders.
  • Coordinating with local police chiefs, sheriffs, and federal officials to deploy personnel and equipment where needed.

By investigating, removing, and reclaiming illegal grow sites as well as shutting down illegal manufacturing, distribution and retail operations, and by apprehending and applying meaningful repercussions to offenders and traffickers,  state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies are protecting consumer and public safety, safeguarding the environment, and depriving illegal cannabis operators and transnational criminal organizations of illicit revenue that undercuts the regulated cannabis market in California. 

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

In addition to the three agencies participating as partners in the task force include:

  • California Agricultural Labor Relations Board
  • California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency
  • California Environmental Protection Agency
  • California Police Chiefs Association
  • California State Sheriffs Association
  • California Highway Patrol
  • California National Guard
  • California State Transportation Agency
  • California Franchise Tax Board
  • California Department of Food and Agriculture
  • California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
  • California Department of Justice
  • California Department of Parks and Recreation
  • California Department of Pesticide Regulation 
  • California Department of Public Health
  • California Department of Tax & Fee Administration
  • California Department of Toxic Substances Control
  • California Employment Development Department
  • California Department of Occupational Health and Safety
  • California Labor and Workforce Development Agency
  • California Government Operations Agency
  • California State Water Resources Control Board
  • High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program
  • United States Drug Enforcement Agency