Attorney General Bonta Announces Eradication of More Than One Million Marijuana Plants as Part of Interagency Effort to Combat Illegal Grows

Sunday, October 17, 2021
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Directs California Department of Justice to Evaluate Effectiveness of CAMP Program and Build on Efforts to Address Environmental, Labor, and Economic Impacts of Illegal Marijuana Cultivation 

SAN DIEGO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the eradication of nearly 1.2 million illegally cultivated marijuana plants and the seizure of more than 180,000 pounds of illegally processed marijuana as part of the California Department of Justice’s annual Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) program. Attorney General Bonta also directed the California Department of Justice to initiate a six-month review of the CAMP program in light of changes to the law since the program was first initiated with the goal of building on existing efforts to address the environmental, labor, and economic impacts of illegal cultivation. Over the course of this year's 13-week season, the multi-agency campaign conducted 491 operations, recovering 165 weapons and removing more than 67,000 pounds of cultivation infrastructure, including dams, water lines, and containers of toxic chemicals. Operating across 26 counties, CAMP teams eradicated grows on both public and private lands, including in the Los Padres National Forest, the Cleveland National Forest; the San Bernardino National Forest, the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the Klamath National Forest, the Sierra National Forest, and the Sequoia National Forest. 

“Illegal and unlicensed marijuana planting is bad for our environment, bad for our economy, and bad for the health and safety of our communities,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Today, I'm directing my office to review the CAMP program and ensure that we are using our resources to effectively address the environmental, labor, and economic impacts of illegal cultivation. From dumping toxic chemicals in our waterways to cheating the state out of millions of tax dollars, illicit marijuana grows have far-reaching impacts and unintended consequences. I want to thank all of our federal, state, and local partners for their tireless efforts this season. It's going to take all of us, working together, to make sure California’s cannabis industry is in the legal, regulated marketplace, not in the illicit one.”

“Our decades long work with our allied agency partners at the Department of Justice is more important than ever, given the pressure that California’s fish and wildlife have faced with a historic drought and prolonged wildfire season” said David Bess, Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Protecting California’s precious ecosystem is our number one priority and we rely on steadfast partners to fulfill this mission. There is no doubt that our partnership with the Department of Justice have made huge strides in protecting the environment for future generations of Californians.”

“Illegal cultivation of marijuana on public lands destroys wildlife habitat and causes degradation of public lands through water diversions, illegal dams, and use of hazardous chemicals that contaminate our creeks and streams, and endanger visitors to our public lands,” said Karen Mouritsen, California State Director for the Bureau of Land Management. “The BLM is proud to protect our public lands and maintain public safety with our state and local law enforcement partners as a part of CAMP.”  

“CDTF remains committed to strong partnerships, the communities in which we live and serve, and the effort to preserve public lands,” said Col. Thomas W. Keegan, Counterdrug Coordinator, California National Guard Counterdrug Task Force. “CDTF has supported CAMP for more than 20 years by providing military personnel and equipment to augment law enforcements’ efforts to disrupt and dismantle illegal cannabis operations throughout the state.” 

"The Forest Service is a proud partner in fighting the destruction of our precious natural resources due to reckless illegal cannabis cultivation," said Don Hoang, Special Agent in Charge at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region. "Together, we are protecting the environment, the wildlife, and the water that supports our communities, farms, and food production." 

"We have been tracking the environmental damage imposed by illicit cannabis cultivation on public lands since 2012 and have seen no decrease in the amount of banned and restricted pesticides, water theft and diversions, and poached and poisoned wildlife over the years," said Dr. Greta Wengert, Executive Director, Integral Ecology Research Center. "Unfortunately, 2021 was no different in the level of these harmful tactics growers used on our National Forests and BLM and state lands, highlighting the continued need for eradication programs like CAMP to detect cultivation sites and assist law enforcement in eradicating these destructive grows.  Eradication followed by safe reclamation will assist in progressing towards full protection of our nation's treasured public lands and resources from this egregious activity."

Throughout the course of the 2021 season, CAMP teams eradicated nearly 1.2 million illegally cultivated marijuana plants, removed cultivation infrastructure and illegal pesticides, and disrupted the diversion of water from streams and rivers. At many grow sites, the teams found highly toxic chemicals, including carbofuran, methyl parathion, aluminum phosphate, zinc phosphide, and illegal fertilizers. Carbofuran, a lethal insecticide that is effectively banned in the United States, is used to kill wildlife-eating marijuana plants. It 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. And as California finds itself in the midst of an unprecedented drought, the cost of illegal marijuana planting is particularly high to communities and farmers already facing water scarcity. Researchers estimate that one marijuana plant consumes six gallons of water per day. Multiply that across the entire illegal marketplace, and the cost to the agriculture industry – including the legal cannabis marketplace – cannot be ignored. 

CAMP operations are a multi-agency collaboration led by the California Department of Justice in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture, United States Forest Service; the United States Department of the Interior's  Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service; the California Department of Fish and Wildlife; the United States Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration; the California National Guard, Counter Drug Task Force; the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program; and other local law enforcement departments. Agents are divided into three teams that encompass the Northern, Central, and Southern California regions, with teams conducting operations in 26 counties across the state. 

In 2021, operations were conducted in the following counties:

  • Riverside: 135 sites; 509,453 plants eradicated
  • Mendocino: 31 sites; 131,319 plants eradicated
  • Trinity: 15 sites; 95,777 plants eradicated
  • Humboldt: 26 sites; 74,669 plants eradicated
  • Lake: 26 sites; 66,576 plants eradicated
  • Kern: 37 sites; 65,229 plants eradicated
  • Siskiyou: 52 sites; 59,075 plants eradicated
  • San Bernardino: 17 sites; 30,419 plants eradicated
  • Tulare: 25 sites; 22,909 plants eradicated
  • Fresno: 30 sites; 25,356 plants eradicated
  • San Diego: 4 sites; 22,497 plants eradicated
  • Shasta: 13 sites; 16,068 plants eradicated
  • Ventura: 7 sites; 14,457 plants eradicated
  • Tehama: 5 sites; 10,850 plants eradicated
  • Madera: 22 sites; 10,028 plants eradicated
  • Los Angeles: 4 sites; 9,109 plants eradicated
  • Mariposa: 6 sites; 8,208 plants eradicated
  • Stanislaus: 6 sites; 7,982 plants eradicated
  • Napa: 6 sites; 6,312 plants eradicated
  • Monterey: 12 sites; 4,645 plants eradicated
  • Sacramento: 7 sites; 4,062 plants eradicated
  • Santa Barbara: 1 site; 1,447 plants eradicated
  • Orange: 1 site; 1,214 plants eradicated
  • Santa Cruz: 2 sites; 791 plants eradicated
  • San Joaquin: 1 site; 147 plants eradicated
  • San Luis Obispo: reconnaissance only

Materials produced by the California Department of Justice are available for download and use by producers and members of the media. Please find below:

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