- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Nearly a million illegally grown marijuana plants were seized this year during an annual effort by authorities in California, the state’s top law enforcement official said Monday.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said this year’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) Program resulted in officials raiding 345 grow sites and eradicating more than 953,000 pot plants.

Authorities arrested 148 people and confiscated 168 weapons in connection with this year’s CAMP Program, Mr. Becerra said.

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“Illegal cannabis grows are devastating our communities. Criminals who disregard life, poison our waters, damage our public lands and weaponize the illegal cannabis black market will be brought to justice,” the attorney general said in a statement.

California law allows adults to grow a limited number of marijuana plants for personal use, as well as a system for licensed growers to cultivate commercial pot to be taxed and sold at state-approved dispensaries.

Black market marijuana remains rampant, however, and industry experts recently predicted that the state’s legal marijuana industry will only generate a fraction of the sales in 2019 as its underground counterpart.

California’s legal recreational and medical marijuana industries are expected to generate $3.1 billion in sales this year, while illicit sales in the state this year are expected to reach $8.7 billion, analysts for Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics announced in August.

The Associated Press estimated that the street value of the 953,459 illegally grown marijuana plants eradicated by authorities this year would amount to more than $3 billion.

“That’s a lot of product,” Jerred Kiloh, the president of the United Cannabis Business Association, told AP. “That’s equal to our entire regulated market.”

California passed laws legalizing marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes in 1996 and 2016, respectively.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, though most states have legalized its use to some extent.

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