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California Intensifies Fight Against Illegal Cannabis Operations

California is taking new steps to combat unlicensed cannabis operations, a persistent problem since the state legalized recreational marijuana in 2016. Assembly Bill 491, which has passed the state House and is now in the Senate, would grant local jurisdictions the power to place liens on properties harboring illegal cannabis operations.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Assembly member Greg Wallis, aims to help rural communities overwhelmed by unregulated cannabis activities. These illegal operations not only undermine public health and safety but also threaten legitimate cannabis businesses in the state’s legal market, which is the largest in the world.

Governor Gavin Newsom’s Unified Cannabis Enforcement task force, created in 2022, has already made significant strides. In its first year, the task force seized over $312 million worth of unlicensed cannabis. In 2023, it confiscated nearly 190,000 pounds of illegal cannabis, eradicated about 318,000 plants, and seized 119 illegally possessed firearms.

Despite these efforts, the illicit market continues to thrive, partly due to high taxes and complex regulations that make it difficult for small-scale legal growers to compete. The proposed legislation is part of a broader effort to strengthen California’s legal cannabis industry while addressing the challenges posed by the illicit market, including the sale of potentially contaminated products.

By empowering local governments to fight illegal growers more effectively, California hopes to strike a balance between supporting its legal cannabis industry and protecting public health and safety.

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