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Thursday, March 24, 2011

California: 100 Million Marijuana Plants

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 7:57 AM

You keep growing, they keep seizing
  • 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


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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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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