Amidst its annual Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), California has decimated over 1.2 million plants thus far. The state’s Attorney General, Rob Bonta, revealed on October 25 that law enforcement obliterated over one million cannabis plants this year through California’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting. The cannabis eradication campaign also seized more than 180,000 pounds of processed and harvested cannabis in 491 sting operations across California, which provides much of the marijuana produced for illegal marijuana markets across the country. While making an appearance in San Diego, Bonta was quoted saying, “Illegal and unlicensed marijuana planting is bad for our environment, bad for our economy, and bad for the health and safety of our communities.”
Bonta, a member of the California State Assembly who was an audible supporter of marijuana policy reform and a regulated cannabis market, noted that he had directed his office to review the CAMP program’s effectiveness at addressing “the environment, labor, and economic impacts of illegal cultivation.” He continued, “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.” The Attorney General concluded, “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.” The eradication program is a multi-agency task force first assembled in 1983 to combat California’s illicit marijuana cultivation industry.
The California Department of Justice leads CAMP operations in partnership with the 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, and other federal, state, and local agencies. The continuing CAMP effort receives varied reviews from the state’s marijuana community. Some legal marijuana company operators rejoice in efforts to pull the reigns in on California’s multi-billion-dollar illegal cannabis economy. However, others cite the campaign’s history of aggressive, paramilitary tactics that entail the use of helicopters and automatic firearms as a disgusting example of government overreach that antagonizes rural families.
There is also a massive environmental cost to illegal marijuana planting. Most illicit marijuana growers in rural areas divert small streams to irrigate their crops and use possibly harmful chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers that can harm ecosystems and wildlife. Ever since California’s continuing drought, water theft has been of specific concern amongst state officials, communities, and farmers. Researchers estimate that a single marijuana plant can require up to six gallons of water per day, which is a lot to grow the finest garnish for your bongs and rolling papers. It’s crimes such as illicit cannabis cultivation that show how much work still needs to be done within the marijuana community.