California Clamps Down on Illegal Cannabis Cultivation

California Clamps Down on Illegal Cannabis Cultivation

California law officials, conspiring with federal authorities, are concluding a summer-long plan to root out illegal marijuana trade. Specifically, they are focusing on unlicensed cannabis cultivation. Thus far, they found nine of every 10 farms raided harboring potentially deadly non-compliance. Last Tuesday, authorities announced that 90 percent of raided farms contain traces of lethal pesticides.

Marijuana Law Compliance

Many in California’s licensed weed industry have long been bemoaning the fact that illegal marijuana trade is stealing their market share. These findings concur. It shows that illicit dealers have no interest in complying with marijuana law. Their neglect of regulations allows them to profit lucratively, but with no accountability for the quality of cannabis that they grow and ultimately sell to unsuspecting consumers.


The raids, funded with $2.5 million of federal money, led to the discovery of 95 unlicensed cannabis cultivation sites, as well as the seizure of over 10 tons of illegal chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizer. Under California’s marijuana law, growers must adhere to very specific pesticide use regulations. Many market chemicals are unsafe for use in marijuana crops. Consumers end up inhaling or ingesting them.


All legal cannabis products must go to an independent laboratory for testing. This is important. Companies are responsible for ensuring their crops are of the highest quality and that they are free of dangerous residues. Only an independent laboratory can determine this, and illicit dealers do not test their buds. You do not know if they contain chemicals. Nor will you know their cannabinoid levels.

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Testing is a crucial consumer protection. Not only does it ensure non-toxic cannabis enters the marketplace, but it also provides information to make informed buying decisions. This is especially vital for those using weed medicinally. To dose yourself correctly, you need to know percentages of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, cannabidiol, or CBD, other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and more.

Such information can help you know what to expect from the cannabis that you buy. Recreationally, knowing how much THC a particular strain contains, for example, tells you its potency, whether it is an energetic Sativa strain suitable for daytime use or a sleepy Indica best saved for later. The illegal marijuana trade provides no such data, putting ill people at risk and leaving consumers blind.


Illicit cannabis cultivation wreaks havoc on the environment. Irresponsible, even lethal, chemical use poisons the soil, air, and water, contaminating other crops nearby, whether weed, grains, or vegetables. Bad use of land causes erosion and depletes soil of essential nutrients. There is also the issue of litter. Illegal cultivators do not risk trash collection, leaving mounds of rubbish wherever they go.

Effect of Law Enforcement

McGregor Scott, U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of California, said federal authorities are focusing specifically on dangerous illegal grows, particularly those on public land. It does not intend to persecute California’s legal and newly flourishing recreational pot market. Illegal marijuana trade often occurs on federal land, and California’s hills are crawling with unlicensed cannabis cultivators.

In an interview prior to the news conference that announced these findings, Scott explained, “This is not about the marijuana; it is about the damage that is being done. What is happening here is illegal under anybody’s law.” Rightfully so. Nobody wants extreme destruction of the air, water, and soil around them, contaminating their food crops and endangering the environment.

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Despite shutting down 95 illegal grows, more will spring up. Authorities suspect that criminals are becoming increasingly innovative, with some illegal grows now sprouting inside agricultural areas, where they blend in seamlessly with legitimate cannabis crops and food farms. The issue appears immense, unresolvable, but investigators remain dedicated to the cause.

In the interview, Scott also said that, “Because of the legalization, our operating theory is that it is a whole lot easier to go set up a greenhouse in the valley somewhere than it is to have to pack all of this stuff into the national forest.” Fewer criminals are taking the risk of growing on federal lands, moving instead where nobody would notice them from the rest.

Illegal Marijuana Trade

The weed grown in illegal cannabis cultivation sites mostly finds its way heading out of state. It would certainly fail California’s very strict standards for legal pot, since officials note that it contains traces of toxic chemicals far more often than not. It goes across state borders, sometimes into or through other states with legal marijuana law, but more frequently, it goes to states that still prohibit it.

Although cannabis is now legal in some states, soon most states, the growing illegal marijuana trade both undercuts the legal market and endangers consumer safety. It also destroys the environment and poisons precious resources. The high prices of legal pot contribute to the existing customer base for illicit weed. If regulators focused more on being competitive, consumers could afford to buy legal pot.

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