California: CDFW and Partners Take Action Against Illegal Cannabis Operators in SoCal
During the months of May and June, wildlife officers in the Cannabis Enforcement Program took action against several illegal cannabis operators in the desert areas of Southern California. During some of the operations, wildlife officers from the surrounding areas came together for multiple days, targeting sites in sensitive habitat and priority watersheds.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers and environmental scientists were joined by investigative staff from the State Water Resources Control Board and the state licensing authority as well as other allied agencies.
In all the investigations, a thorough records check was conducted to confirm if any of the sites had taken steps to secure a state license and a county permit. None of the parcels were licensed by the state and permitted by the county for commercial cannabis cultivation.
“With drought like conditions all over the state, combatting illegal cultivation is more important than ever,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “I’m deeply proud of the work by our wildlife officers statewide. Our native plants, fish and wildlife are facing a significant threat from illegal cultivation activity, which can have a substantial impact on some species.”
On May 12 and 13 in Llano, wildlife officers served five search warrants on five separate parcels and eradicated 6,000 plants. One firearm was seized and $9,500 was confiscated. On site, CDFW Environmental Scientists documented several environmental violations, which included a substantial streambed alteration, placing materials deleterious to fish and wildlife where they may pass into the stream, and stockpiling rubbish in and around a nearby ephemeral stream. Two individuals were detained and formal complaints will be filed with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.
In Hi Vista on May 19, wildlife officers assisted with multiple investigations and initiated a traffic stop, which resulted in the seizure of 500 cannabis plants. That investigation was turned over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and charges have been filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office against the vehicle’s occupants.
In Mojave on May 21, wildlife officers assisted the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program with support on multiple search warrants, which resulted in 21,899 illegal cannabis plants being eradicated, seven firearms seized and $21,523 confiscated. Twenty-six people were detained and formal complaints will be filed against all individuals with the Kern County District Attorney’s office.
On June 8-17, wildlife officers assisted the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in the Antelope Valley area. The operation served 205 search warrants on illegal cannabis cultivation sites. CDFW led a team on 28 of the search warrants. Officers were responsible for planning, evidence collection, cannabis eradication and providing site security for CDFW Environmental Scientists and investigators from the state licensing authority. CDFW Environmental Scientists identified several environmental violations at multiple sites. The combined allied agency effort resulted in 372,918 illegal cannabis plants eradicated, 33,480 lbs. of processed illegal cannabis flower destroyed, 33 firearms seized and 131 individuals arrested, including 19 arrested for water theft. Officers rescued 84 dogs, 11 chickens, eight pigs and six goats who were living in substandard conditions.
The public can report environmental crimes to the CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258 or by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).