California: 100 Million Marijuana Plants

Categories: Crime, Marijuana
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You keep growing, they keep seizing
Seizures Rise Under Obama Administration as Cops Bust More Plants Than Ever.

The marijuana-related headlines on Wednesday were hogged by a report, issued by a private "cannabusiness" company, that says sales of medical marijuana nationwide will top $1.7 billion this year (read the report yourself).

We will put that into context for you: Pfizer reaps $1.9 billion annually from slinging Viagra.

Those are some big, tall, numbers. Not to be eclipsed by what our friends at the federal Drug Enforcement Administration released last week --  namely, the annual totals from its marijuana eradication efforts.

They're big. As in, 100 million plants big.

DEA agents uprooted 10,329,185 cannabis plants in 2010, with the lion's share -- 7,392,652 -- extracted right here in California, according to the DEA's annual report.

That resulted in a seizure of 52,928 pounds of "processed" marijuana and 1,591 arrests in California. In comparison, here are DEA's national totals: 85,926 pounds of marijuana seized and 9,687 people arrested.

Again, we will put that into context for you: 2007 was considered, by many in the pot community, to be the worst year for federal raids. And even then, agents only nabbed 4,951,976 plants, seized 21,239 pounds of pot, and booked 1,084 people in California.

In law enforcement, the accepted metric is that cops will seize about 10 percent of the total crop, which, by our math, means there were some 73 million marijuana plants in California in 2010 -- up from 50 million in 2007.

These numbers still don't tell us the full story. The stats do not include seizures by state cops. In 2010, the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting nabbed 572,680 plants in Mendocino County alone -- more than the DEA found combined in 49 states. That bust took them en route to 4,320,314 more plants that were hauled away.

It gets better.

CAMP's numbers are separate from the DEA's, a CAMP spokeswoman told SF Weekly. So with some simple math, we realized that cops really found 11,712,966 marijuana plants in California last year.

If that's 10 percent of the total, then there were more than 100 million pot plants in California last year.

You are probably thinking 'Holy shit, that's some drug war.' But remember -- this is all fuzzy math at best, according to Stephen Gutwillig, California director for the Drug Policy Alliance.

"The cycle is, they claim every year to have seized more, eradicated more than ever before, yet the price and availability remain unchanged," Gutwillig told SF Weekly. "Meanwhile, we're spending untold amounts of tax dollars giving federal law enforcement officers helicopter rides and extensive gardening experience."

It is untold millions, indeed. The DEA won't release its budget figures, according to Special Agent Casey McEnry, a spokeswoman for the DEA's San Francisco office.

Still, we put in a call to Special Agent Michelle Gregory at CAMP, asking for those numbers. No word back yet.

Keep in mind that the totals do not differentiate between a tiny seedling and an eight-foot plant with four pounds of pot on it. For all we know, every plant seized could have been a seedling.

It's worth noting here that much of CAMP's work is respected by even the most cop-hating pothead.

But oddly, while seizures of marijuana plants that are grown outdoors has climbed steadily, indoor seizures have been on the decline: Statistics show the numbers dropping from 182,000 in 2008 to 153,000 in 2010, according to the DEA.

CAMP's figures do not distinguish indoor and outdoor seizures, but anecdotally, the CAMP operations are almost entirely outdoor. How else would you get to ride in those cool helicopters?

That's odd, because if anything, the amount of pot grown indoors in California is increasing just as much, if not more, as pot being cultivated someone's backyard: Grow schools like Oaksterdam University graduate trained, indoor farmers every few months.

And SFPD has told us that grow houses are proliferating on the city's west side. So why aren't feds getting those plants, too?

It's a head-scratcher, even for Gutwillig.

"It costs a lot more to produce pot indoors than outdoors -- indoor strains can sell for as much as double [outdoor strains]," he said. "And we're seeing a great deal more indoor grows in general."

"I guess outdoor grows are easier [to bust], to some extent," Gutwillig added.

Another point: The CAMP numbers aren't accurate portrayals of what's really being grown in California's Emerald Triangle, according to a cannabis grower who asked to remain unamed.

CAMP says it nabbed 540,000 plants in Mendocino County, but 140,911 plants in Humboldt and 120,431 in Trinity counties, or less than what cops nabbed in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

That's because, our source tells us, Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman requested help from CAMP, whereas Humboldt County sheriffs did not.

"I had friends in Humboldt tell me they couldn't believe what they were getting away with [in 2010]," our source told us.

But then we asked our source to imagine what 100 million plants would look like.

"Wow," our source said after a pause. "Wow."

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Sandra Kirk
Sandra Kirk

11,712,966 marijuana plants in California last year. Hmmm. And not a word from Richard Lee or any of the big pot dealers who claim to run the marijuana legalization movement in California. Of course they do make more money when those plants are seized. Actually it is a price control system which keeps the prices high. It would be a different business if pot was $10 dollars per ounce. Probably 10 times more people would be using it and they would all be a lot happier than the tiny group of folks getting totally reamed today.


It used to be standard for Indiana agents to "eradicate" millions of feral hemp plants, descendants of industrial grade hemp grown in World War 2. I wonder if the nationwide numbers include bogus "eradication" efforts in that vein.

The last two years have seen a bumper crop and a significant glut of cannabis on the market. Every year there's more and more, and every year the police brag about their increased seizures. Incredibly people actually congratulate them for such incompetence. Within the last couple of months I read about one seizure of over 11 tons, being smuggled in by rail. The people that produce numbers like that aren't stupid enough to put all their eggs in one basket. One for the cops, one for the rippers, and one for the grower was always the rule of thumb a while back when I was aware of people who grew out doors. It worked back then, it sure seems to be working today.


It does include the eradication of of "ditch weed" hemp in the midwest, which is a complete waste of resources, since smoking it only gives a headache. They chop down more ditch weed than they do anything else. They have to do this every year, too, because that hemp goes to seed. It's like trying to eradicate crab grass. By doing that, they can point to the high numbers of plants as evidence of their "success in the war on drugs".


A report published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal (Canada) stated that tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related costs are about $165 per user and cannabis-related health costs are about $20 per user.

The review, authored by researchers from the Center for Addictions Research of British Columbia at the University of Victoria and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse at the University of Ottawa, stated: “Alcohol is used by a very large number of people with the vast majority of these using in low- or moderate-risk ways. Conversely, cannabis and tobacco are used by far fewer people. The majority of cannabis use is low- and moderate-risk, however, while the majority of tobacco is high-risk.”

In the conclusion of the study, the authors stated: “The harms, risks and social costs of alcohol, cannabis and tobacco vary greatly. A lot has to do with how the substances are handled legally. Alcohol and tobacco are legal substances, which explains their low enforcement costs relative to cannabis. On the other hand, the health costs per user of tobacco and alcohol are much higher than for cannabis. This may indicate that cannabis use involves fewer health risks than alcohol or tobacco.”

The author conclude further: “These variations in risk, harms and cost need to be taken into account as we think about further efforts to deal with the use of these three substances. … Efforts to reduce social costs related to cannabis, for example, will likely involve shifting its legal status by decriminalizing casual use, to reduce the high enforcement costs. Such a shift may be warranted given the apparent lower health risk associated with most cannabis use.”

You can read the report here: http: // (page down to Cannabis for the pdf copy of the Journal)

The above information was posted on the NORML web site today as well (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). Check them out at

h. brown
h. brown

A thought,

A little bird told me a few years back that the DEA and CAMP were ignoring the grows that had even the flimsiest of ties to the medicinal pot community and that if I'd look that I'd see that almost every plantation they popped was on Federal or State land and most of them were planted and maintained by Mexican drug lords. Whatcha think?

Go Giants!


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