In its second operation, the Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce (UCETF) served 13 search warrants between Oct. 18 and Oct. 19 on unlicensed indoor cultivation operations near Los Angeles and seized an estimated retail value of roughly $8 million of illicit cannabis.

Gov. Gavin Newsom created the taskforce, led by the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES), and several other partners, “to eliminate the number of illicit cannabis operations in the state, which has been affecting state-legal businesses,” Cannabis Business Times previously reported.

The UCETF eradicated 7,503 illicit cannabis plants and more than 936 pounds of processed illegal cannabis flower, according to a news release from CDFW.

In addition, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control also discovered high levels of toxic chemicals at some locations. 

“Criminal cannabis operators, like those we enforced against in this operation, jeopardize the health of their workers by using toxic chemicals to help fertilize indoor cultivations that undercut the legal market and present safety risks to consumers,” said Nicole Elliott, DCC director. “While DCC works hard to support the transition of legacy operators into the legal market, we have zero tolerance for this behavior and will work with our partners across state, local, and the federal government to shut it down.”

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power also uncovered safety code violations at all 13 sites and has since disconnected the power at all locations, according to the release.

“This operation uncovers a perfect example of the disregard for health and safety and the lengths people will go to grow illegal cannabis,” said Charlton H. Bonham, CDFW director. He added that this type of illegal cannabis activity is a “huge threat” and is “detrimental” to the legal market.

“This operation is another important step in protecting our communities. California is committed to working across all levels of government to take aggressive action against bad actors and criminal organizations,” said Mark Ghilarducci, OES director and Gov. Newsom’s Homeland Security Advisor.

The criminal investigations are ongoing, according to the release. Once completed, “the cases will be submitted to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. In addition, cases for civil penalties may be submitted to the California Attorney General’s Office and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, as appropriate.”

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