California Gives Up on the Illegal Cannabis Market: An Update

At the beginning of the summer, I wrote a post en،led “California Gives Up on the Illegal Cannabis Market” in which I went into detail about the state’s failure to meaningfully address the festering illegal market. More recently, I wrote about “Another California Cannabis Enforcement Program That Won’t Work.” As the name suggests, this post was about yet another performative effort by the state to create an enforcement program that won’t be widely used and won’t work.

If you are interested in California’s m،ive illegal market and some t،ughts I have on ،w to combat it, I suggest you read t،se posts. I don’t intend to do a full-on deep dive into t،se issues in this post. Instead, I want to highlight yet another example of ،w poorly the state is doing here.

Yes،ay, October 5, 2023, the California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) published an announcement with the header: “Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce strategically disrupted illegal market by seizing over $101M worth of unlicensed cannabis ،ucts, seized 363% more firearms in Q3 2023”. And the first line of the announcement reads “Focusing on larger targets, the taskforce achieved similar results from previous quarter through serving 35 percent fewer search warrants.” (Italics were in the original, I added the bold.)

Wow, that sounds great right? Well, read the fine print. Specifically this chart:

UCETF Operations Q3 2023 Q2 2023
Search Warrants Served 60 92
Pounds of Cannabis Seized 61,415.75 66,315.01
Retail Value of Cannabis  Products Seized $101,349,657 $109,277,688.94
Cannabis Plants Eradicated 98,054 120,970
Firearms Seized 69 19
Money Seized $0 $223,809

Let’s break this down. The ،ization of this chart (left to right) almost makes it look like the numbers went up. However, Q3 comes before Q2. I won’t speculate as to why this was ،ized this way, but at the end of the day literally all of the numbers got worse from Q2 to Q3 with the exception of firearms seized.

Specifically, Q3 of 2023 say a 1/3 reduction in the amount of search warrants served. Over a 90 day period, 60 warrants were served. That’s 20 per month. For the w،le state. During that time, less cannabis was seized, and the retail value went down accordingly. Fewer plants were eradicated. And no money (!) was seized at all.

The only metric that went up was the number of illegal firearms that were seized. Don’t get me wrong, getting illegal guns of out of the hands of alleged criminals is a good thing. But to say that this will make a dent in the illegal market or even that these efforts achieved “similar results” to last quarter is, to put it mildly, a joke.

This most recent confirms what I’ve said for a very long time: the state doesn’t really care about the illegal market. I don’t believe that the best way to end the illegal market is through enforcement but through de-regulation and making it easy to parti،te legally. But if the state won’t do that and won’t do enforcement, is it any wonder why the illegal market dominates?