In continuing its aggressive crackdown against illegal cannabis operators threatening the environment, communities, public health, and the legal market, the Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce (UCETF) took recent actions to shut down unlicensed indoor cultivation operations in large, industrial warehouses located in the San Fernando Valley.
Led by the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and Governor’s Office of Emergency Services as well as several other local and state partners, the UCETF operation spanned two days and included a total of 13 search warrants served between October 18 and October 19 on unlicensed indoor cultivation operations in the Sun Valley suburb, outside of Los Angeles.
Officers eradicated 7,503 plants and more than 936 pounds of processed cannabis flower, worth an estimated retail value of close to $8 million. Using air monitors, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) detected high levels of banned, toxic chemicals at some of the sites.
“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 DCC Director Nicole Elliott. “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.”
Samples taken from unlabeled chemicals and extracted distillate will be tested. Laboratory results will be provided for use in building criminal cases. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power disconnected power at all locations, finding safety code violations at all 13 sites.
“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, Director of CDFW. “This type of activity is a huge threat and detrimental to the burgeoning legal market we are working to support.”
“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 Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci, Director of Cal OES and the Governor’s Homeland Security Advisor.
Criminal investigations are ongoing and 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.
“We are grateful for the partnership and collaboration of the Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce in helping us tackle illegal cannabis operations in and around the Los Angeles area,” said Detective Travis Coyle of the Foothill Narcotics Division of the Los Angeles Police Department. “This is an all-hands on deck issue that requires partners from local, state, and federal agencies work together and we’re looking forward to the added support.”
Agencies participating in this operation included:
- Department of Cannabis Control, Law Enforcement Division
- Department of Cannabis Control, Compliance Division
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife
- California Department of Industrial Relations
- California Department of Insurance
- California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
- California Department of Toxic Substances Control
- Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
- Los Angeles Police Department, Foothill Division
Enforcement activities are important in eliminating unfair competition, protecting natural resources, and safeguarding communities. Alongside enforcement efforts, the state is expanding access to tested cannabis products for consumers, including through a $20 million grant program approved in Governor Gavin Newsom’s FY 2022-23 budget that would allow DCC to grant cities and counties with funding to support the creation of cannabis retail access in areas that currently do not allow it.