California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced this week a broader effort to eliminate illicit cannabis operations in the state as California’s state-legal cannabis businesses struggle to thrive.
Bonta plans to expand the state’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) program, a multi-agency seasonal eradication program started in 1983 under former Gov. Deukmejian, into a year-round effort to investigate illegal grows, the Associated Press reported.
The new effort will become a permanent Eradication and Prevention of Illicit Cannabis (EPIC) task force, according to the news outlet.
The CAMP program is already the largest in the country, lasting about 90 days each summer, AP reported.
The program rounded up nearly a million illicit cannabis plants this year alone, according to the news outlet.
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In its expanded form, the program aims to prosecute underlying labor crimes, environmental crimes and the underground economy associated with illegal cannabis grows, according to AP.
The broader program will rely on the cooperation of other federal, state and local agencies, the news outlet reported, including the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, National Parks Service, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Parks, and the California National Guard. Some of these agencies will also participate in the EPIC task force, according to AP.
Bonta called the change “an important shift in mindset,” the news outlet reported.
“The illicit marketplace outweighs the legal marketplace,” he said. “It’s upside down and our goal is complete eradication of the illegal market.”
The task force will ultimately work with state Department of Justice prosecutors, the department’s Cannabis Control Section and an existing Tax Recovery in the Underground Economy (TRUE) task force that was established by a 2020 law that aimed to file civil and criminal cases against the operators of illicit cannabis operations, according to AP.