The California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) recently published an announcement regarding recent cannabis taskforce seizures. As of April 11, the Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce (UCETF) seized over $53,620,600 in illegal cannabis during the first quarter of 2024 (spanning between January 1, 2024-March 31, 2024).

Law enforcement seized 331,866 pounds of unlicensed cannabis product, destroyed 54,137 cannabis plants, and seized $34,858 in total cash, in addition to confiscating 11 firearms and arresting four people.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom released a press statement regarding the Q1 seizures. “California is home to the largest legal cannabis market in the world,” said Newsom. “As we continue to cultivate a legal marketplace, we’re taking aggressive action to crack down on those still operating in the shadows—shutting down illegal operations linked to organized crime, human trafficking, and the proliferation of illegal products that harm the environment and public health.”

UCETF acting chief, Nathaniel Arnold, praised the agency for continuing to provide results as it tackles the state’s illegal cannabis industry. “UCETF continues to strengthen its momentum by focusing on priority targets and strategically removing operations having a significant impact on the illegal cannabis supply chain,” Arnold said. “We are utilizing all the available resources from our partner agencies and are committed more than ever to providing public safety, protecting the environment, and helping the regulated market succeed and thrive.”

The DCC’s Law Enforcement Division Chief Bill Jones noted that UCETF’s success so far has been a group effort between numerous agencies. “A key to UCETF’s success is a collaborative approach relying on intelligence gathering, targeted investigations and leveraging the expertise of our members,” Jones said. “The Taskforce continues to play a crucial role in protecting the legal cannabis market while eliminating the often-dangerous activities associated with unlicensed cannabis operations.”

The UCETF works with the following agencies to investigate and act on illegal activity: “Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Department of Cannabis Control, Employment Development Department, Department of Fish and Wildlife, California National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, California State Parks, and the Department of Tax and Fee Administration,” with the addition of other “federal and local partners.”

Eighteen search warrants were conducted in Q1 2024, including two in Alameda County, one in Fresno County, five in Kern County, one in Los Angeles County, two in Riverside County, one in San Joaquin County, and six in Orange County.

The UCETF was created by Newsom in October 2022, and since then it has seized $371,199,431 in unlicensed cannabis product from a total of 236 warrants.

Within the first month of operation, UCETF conducted 13 search warrants in Los Angeles. It eradicated 7,503 plants and 936 pounds of cannabis flower over the course of two days. After that initial announcement, UCETF released numbers by quarter, as seen below.

Q4 2022

Warrants Served: 30

Cannabis Seized: 19,401 pounds

Plants Eradicated: 29,687

Retail Value Seized: $32,012,854.50

Q1 2023

Warrants Served: 21

Cannabis Seized: 31,912 pounds

Plants Eradicated: 52,529

Retail Value Seized: $52,644,020.50

Q2 2023

Warrants Served: 92

Cannabis Seized: 66,315 pounds

Plants Eradicated: 120,970

Retail Value Seized: $109,277,688

Q3 2023

Warrants Served: 60

Cannabis Seized: 61,415 pounds

Plants Eradicated: 98,054

Retail Value Seized: $101,349,657

Q4 2023

Warrants Served: 24

Cannabis Seized: 13,393 pounds

Plants Eradicated: 20,320

Retail Value Seized: $22,294,571

Q1 2024

Warrants Served: 18

Cannabis Seized: 31,866 pounds

Plants Eradicated: 54,858

Retail Value Seized: $53,620,600

UCETF Totals So Far (Q4 2022-Q1 2024)

Warrants Served: 236

Cannabis Seized: ~234,588 pounds

Plants Eradicated: 401,458

Retail Value Seized: $371,199,431

So far, the UCETF’s seizures peaked in Q2 2023, and have since been reduced significantly. The DCC did not address what the reason might be for the reduction in warrants and plant/product seizures overall.

Regardless, the DCC is committed to its efforts to protect the legal cannabis industry. “California is effectively decreasing the illegal cannabis market by leveraging the strengths and knowledge of over 20 state agencies and departments alongside our local and federal partners. The UCETF’s progress in 2023 reflects California’s ongoing commitment to disrupting  and dismantling illegal cannabis activity,” said DCC director Nicole Elliott in January. “I look forward to working with all our partners in 2024 to build on this progress.”

Last year in September, there was a raid on a legal cannabis business called Se7venleaf in Costa Mesa, which at the time was thought to be conducting business illegally. Law enforcement seized 100 pounds of cannabis flower, various boxes of cartridges and vaporizers, among many other business-related items (security cameras, devices, and documents). In late March, the Costa Mesa police were forced to return all of the seized items. “They didn’t like that they had to return the stuff,” said Se7venleaf co-owner Matteo Tabib. “They didn’t like that they were wrong, and they didn’t like that they were embarrassed and that nobody was charged. They gave no consideration that me and Michael and our employees’ lives are not in a good place right now.”

 [[{“value”:”The Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce revealed the most recent statistics of its ongoing mission to eliminate illegal cannabis activity throughout California.
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