California sheriffs find and destroy $1 billion of illicit cannabis plants

California sheriffs find and destroy $1 billion of illicit cannabis plants

The Kern County Sheriff’s Office (near Bakersfield, California) has found and destroyed 10 million marijuana plants on 459 acres of land — a crop probably worth around $1 billion in California’s illicit cannabis market. The Sheriff’s office worked with the FBI and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (which oversees licenses for growing cannabis legally) to find the fields, which were licensed as hemp fields, but which authorities say had THC levels much higher than those permissible for industrial hemp production.

On one hand, that’s a huge loss, and it’s hard to believe that there wasn’t a better or less wasteful option here (could authorities have worked with the growers to bring the plants into the legal market?). On the other hand, California’s legal cannabis market is dealing with a huge problem in the form of a much bigger illegal market, and you have to think that taking $1 billion of product off the table will definitely help with that issue. Taking out one grow won’t completely stop the distribution of illegal, unlicensed cannabis, but with a grow this big, it has to help, right?

We’ll have to wait and see. For now, this seems like such a waste — it’s hard to believe there wasn’t some other option here. It’s true that in order for the legal market to succeed, the illegal market needs to be shut down, but the goal should be to bring illicit growers into the legal market, not just burning down what they’ve created. Hopefully this action has made a dent in the illegal market, so we don’t have to see destruction like this again.

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