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California’s statewide cannabis enforcement taskforce continues to aggressively combat illegal market by seizing over $52M worth of unlicensed cannabis products in Q1 2023

May 22, 2023

Quarter-over-quarter gains realized by the Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce showcase coordinated, efficient approach

CALIFORNIA – Building upon the $32 million seized by the Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce (UCETF) during the first quarter of their operation, the taskforce announced today that it seized over $52 million in unlicensed cannabis and cannabis products in Q1 2023.

Additional highlights from the period January 1, 2023, through March 30, 2023, include a 43 percent gain in the number of plants eradicated. By targeting larger cultivation operations, UCETF was able to improve its quarter-over-quarter results despite serving 30 percent fewer search warrants. The complete details of UCETF’s 2022 and Q1 2023 results are listed below.

UCETF is supporting the legal cannabis market by investigating and thwarting illegal grow sites as well as shutting down illegal manufacturing, distribution, and retail operations. By working closely with state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies, UCETF’s enforcement actions protect consumer and public safety, safeguard the environment, and deprive illegal cannabis operators and transnational criminal organizations of illicit revenue that undercuts the regulated cannabis market in California. 

“As the DCC Law Enforcement Division focuses on illegal indoor cultivations, unlicensed dispensaries, and unlicensed manufacturing and distribution operations, the multi-agency, cross-jurisdictional approach of UCETF allows us to leverage the expertise of each participating department to disrupt a broader scope of illegal businesses,” stated Bill Jones, Chief of the Law Enforcement Division for DCC. “Significantly improving our results speaks to our effectiveness and will help support the legal cannabis market.”

UCETF OperationsQ4 2022Q1 2023Percentage Change
Search Warrants Served3021-30%
Pounds of Cannabis Seized19,401.7331,91239%
Retail Value of Cannabis Products Seized$32,012,854.50$52,644,020.5039%
Cannabis Plants Eradicated29,68752,52943%
Firearms Seized94-44%
Money Seized$12,602$95,64687%

“This multiagency task force has hit the ground running, allowing partners with the opportunity to contribute to their area of expertise. UCETF has quickly made an impact on the illegal cannabis supply chain, which in turn is helping the regulated market succeed,” said David Bess, Chief of Enforcement for California Department of Fish & Wildlife. “The gains and successes made by the task force speak directly to the efficiency and dedication of this multiagency collaboration and we expect to see this type of continued success throughout the year as UCEFT moves into outdoor cultivation enforcement season.”

“The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration is committed to enforcing laws that hold illegal operators accountable for unpaid taxes,” said California Department of Tax and Fee Administration Director Nick Maduros. “CDTFA’s tax expertise helps our law enforcement partners take aggressive action to combat illegal activities and deter tax evaders.”

To date UCETF has seized $84,652,875 in unlicensed cannabis through the serving of 51 search warrants. The taskforce has also eradicated 82,216 plants and seized 13 firearms.

Created in 2022, the Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce has been charged by the Governor to better align state efforts and increase cannabis enforcement coordination between state, local and federal partners. The taskforce is co-chaired by the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and coordinated by the Homeland Security Division of Cal OES. The taskforce includes more than two dozen local, state, and federal partners working together to disrupt the illegal cannabis market.