Tuesday, 16 July 2024

Statewide Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce conducts massive Central Valley operation on outdoor grow sites, nets over $42 million of illegal cannabis

The Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce’s latest operation sized more than $42 million of illegal cannabis. Courtesy photo.

Continuing its strong first quarter momentum, the Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce, or UCETF, conducted a highly coordinated operation in Kern, Tulare and Kings counties on May 11 and 12.

The extensive multiagency operation served 51 search warrants on 52 illicit cannabis cultivation sites, resulting in over 50,000 illicit cannabis plants being eradicated and over 1,300 pounds of processed cannabis destroyed.

The estimated cash value of the illegal cannabis is over $42 million. Along with this large seizure, officers located six sites with banned pesticides/chemicals that illegal growers were using on their cannabis crops. Thirteen firearms were also seized along with 125 grams of cocaine.

Personnel from 13 different state and local agencies, including 130 officers, participated in the operation, which had been coordinated for many preceding weeks.

“The support, dedication and hard work of this multiagency taskforce speaks volumes to the success of this operation, which prevented a huge amount of illicit cannabis from entering the supply chain,” said David Bess, Chief of Enforcement for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). “This is disruption at its finest. These communities can sleep better knowing these illicit operations have been shut down.”

Several criminal charges will be filed with the Superior Courts for various crimes related to illegal cultivation of cannabis, felon in possession of a firearm and environmental crimes, which ranged from use of banned pesticides to allowing pollutants to enter ground aquifers.

Participating agencies included: CDFW, Department of Cannabis Control (DCC), California Department of Parks and Recreation, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California Department of Toxic Substances Control, California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, California State Water Resources Control Board, Kern County Sheriff’s Department, Kern County Probation Department, Tulare Sheriff’s Department and the National Guard Counter Drug Operations.

Between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2023, UCETF seized 31,912 pounds of cannabis and other cannabis products that had an estimated retail value of $52,644,020. In addition, 52,529 cannabis plants were destroyed, $95,646 in cash was confiscated and four firearms were seized. Read more about the Q1 results.

Created in 2022, UCETF has been charged by Governor Newsom to better align state efforts and increase cannabis enforcement coordination among state, local and federal partners. The taskforce is co-chaired by the DCC and 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.

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