SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced the eradication of more than 1.1 million marijuana plants across 455 grow sites as part of the California Department of Justice’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) program, the nation’s largest illegal marijuana eradication program. Over the course of a 13-week season – and despite unprecedented challenges from COVID-19 and wildfires – the multi-agency campaign conducted operations in 29 counties, arresting 140 individuals and seizing 174 weapons.
“Illegal marijuana planting risks public safety, endangers public health, and devastates critical habitats and wildlife,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Every year, the California Department of Justice works with federal, state, and local partners to hold illegal growers accountable and reclaim our public lands. I want to thank our CAMP teams for their resilience and commitment during this tumultuous year. Between COVID-19 and wildfires, the 2020 CAMP season was no cakewalk, but as a result of their hard work, more than one million illegal marijuana plants were eradicated.”
“There’s no question that illegal cultivation significantly harms the environment, puts public safety at risk and has no place in California’s regulated market,” said David Bess, Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “I’m eternally grateful for the commitment and persistence from our wildlife officers and our allied partners who made the 2020 CAMP season a huge success.”
“Marijuana operations on public lands poison wildlife, damage the environment, and can destroy our natural resources,” said Daniel C. Comeaux, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration. “This multi-agency collaboration is an effective way to eradicate these grows and restore the areas that belong to nature.”
“Illegal cultivation of marijuana on public lands destroys wildlife habitat, endangers the recreating public and pollutes sensitive areas with hazardous chemicals,” said Karen Mouritsen, California State Director for the Bureau of Land Management. “The BLM is proud to support strong partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies, like CAMP, that further our common goals – to protect our public lands and maintain public safety.”
“U.S. Forest, Law Enforcement and Investigations, Pacific Southwest Region, remains committed in our efforts to stop illegal marijuana grows on our public lands in California,” said Don Hoang, Special Agent in Charge of United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region. “Even with a pandemic and multiple large wildfires slowing down our ability to investigate, discover, raid, eradicate and reclaim these sites we continue to make an impact against these criminal organizations who are destroying our forests. We are steadfast in our commitment to our task force partners, the preservation of our priceless national forests, and to the millions of visitors and residents living near these natural treasures. More than ever people are looking to our forests to enjoy the outdoors. We will stay the course to ensure their safety and to protect the land, wildlife and waterways from illegal activities.”
“CAMP provides specialized resources that we don’t have, their assistance has been vital in our efforts to combat illegal and dangerous marijuana growing operations,” said Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue. “While Madera County is seeing an increase in indoor marijuana grows recently, the outdoor grows in wilderness and forest areas are still a cause for great concern. One of the very real problems with these illegal outdoor grows is the damage they are doing to our environment with toxic chemicals and the destruction they are causing to our forest areas.”
The CAMP operations were led by the California Department of Justice and included local, state, and federal agencies. Agents were divided into three teams that encompass the Northern, Central, and Southern California regions, with teams conducting operations in 29 counties across the state. Throughout the course of the 2020 season, CAMP teams protected public resources against misuse and safeguarded public land and water from illegal pesticides.
The illegal grow sites — many loaded with trash, banned pesticides such as carbofuran, methyl parathion, aluminum phosphate, and illegal fertilizers — discharge large quantities of these harmful products into the waterways of California. Carbofuran, a lethal pesticide that is found at a majority of illegal grows on public lands, remains on plants after application and seeps into the soil and nearby water sources, posing untold risks to public health. Just a quarter teaspoon of carbofuran can kill a 600-pound bear. Illegal growers also disrupt the natural flow of streams and rivers to create irrigation systems, endangering nearby fish, wildlife, and plants. Agents shut down these sites, shielded the public from harmful chemicals, restored critical ecosystems, and disrupted dangerous criminal activity.
The 2020 CAMP operations count on multi-agency collaboration between the California Department of Justice, the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Forest Service, the United States Department of the Interior, the National Park Service, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the United States Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration, the California National Guard, the California Bureau of Land Management, and the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, and other local law enforcement departments.
Operations were conducted in the following counties: Colusa, El Dorado, Fresno, Humboldt, Inyo, Kern, Lake, Los Angeles, Madera, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Monterey, Napa, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Siskiyou, Stanislaus, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, and Ventura.
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