Last weekend, officials descended upon a warehouse in Oakland, California, allegedly full of illegal cannabis plants, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Not only cannabis opponents, but also law-abiding operators are not fans of illegal cannabis operations that they must compete with.
The department said that it’s one of the largest cannabis busts this year in the Bay Area, where illegal operations are common.
Agents raided the warehouse on Sept. 28, located on the 300 block of Adeline Street in Oakland. Law enforcement officers eradicated 41,082 cannabis plants and destroyed 1,841 pounds of “processed cannabis.” Officials say the estimated retail value was $36,930,300.
“We have a history of combating illegal outdoor cannabis grows, which has evolved to a broader range of operations including warehouse grows, in support of establishing a thriving legal marketplace,” Janice Mackey, a CDFW spokesperson told High Times in an email. “CDFW’s cannabis enforcement program is always gathering intelligence, receiving information and conducting an array of investigations with our state and county partners on various aspects of the illegal cannabis supply chain.”
“This is one of the largest cannabis enforcement actions (in terms of retail value) in the Bay Area this year,” said Mackey.
Fox KTVU 2 reports that three guns were confiscated at the scene as well. “No one was arrested, but suspects were interviewed,” Mackey told KTVU 2 in an email. It’s unclear what tipped off officials to the warehouse, but they typically rely on concerned citizens to bring attention to these operations.
CDFW representatives said this is an ongoing investigation and no other information is available at this time. CDFW maintains that it has a public trust responsibility to protect and conserve California’s fish and wildlife resources. Cannabis cultivators, like most other industries, must comply with Fish and Game Code.
CDFW Inspections have led to violations for water diversions and storage, grading, chemical use, wildlife threats, timber conversion, and public safety, the department notes. Between 2013 and 2018, over 700 inspections resulted in 399 tons of trash removed from public and private lands including 2.4 million feet of irrigation pipe, 50 tons of fertilizer, and 465 gallons of chemicals, many illegal. In addition, the removal of 709 dams and water diversions related to cannabis grows resulted in restoration of 800 million gallons of water back into local watersheds.
CDFW agents said they seized nearly 40,000 cannabis plants in raids on April 25, The San Francisco Standard reported. In that bust, a similar amount, over $36 million worth of cannabis, was seized in the raids at 744 Kevin Court and 4825 San Leandro St.
Oakland residents are used to rising crime in the area—sometimes with cannabis businesses and the people behind them as the victims. Last year, C.R.A.F.T. (Citizens Research Alliance for Therapeutics) Cannabis was robbed at gunpoint and about $100,000 in product was stolen. Making things worse, eyewitnesses say it took “hours” for police to arrive at the scene.
A man was shot at the Oakanna dispensary in February 2022. Oakanna dispensary owner Joshua Chase was shot in the foot after a group of burglars tripped an alarm in the early morning hours at his relatively new retail facility.
Criminals are also getting creative in the way they target cannabis businesses, such as smash and grab attempts, now with heavy machinery. Security footage obtained last June shows a huge forklift being used in a break-in attempt at another dispensary.
The cannabis delivery industry in the area has also been hit hard. Access to banking services could solve many of those problems and make dispensaries safer for the people who work in them.
CDFW Cannabis Enforcement Ramps Up
Wildlife officers with the CDFW’s Marijuana Enforcement Team (MET) also spearheaded several enforcement investigations in rural areas during August and September, a Sept. 27 news release indicates.
During Sept. 4-8, MET officers raided several illegal cannabis operations on rural private lands in Shasta, Tehama and Sutter counties. Often officers depend on concerned citizens to drop the dime: Officers were tipped off by a hunter who stumbled on one of the trespass grow sites and reported it.
MET officers destroyed more than 5,500 illegal plants, arrested four suspects, seized several firearms including one stolen handgun, dismantled several water diversions and removed thousands of pounds of trash. Backup was provided from CDFW’s Air Services and K9 Units, as well as the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Eradication and Prevention of Illicit Cannabis (EPIC) task force.
“Many recreationists who venture into California’s backcountry are our best eyes and ears for reporting poaching, pollution and illegal cannabis cultivation on public land,” said Nathaniel Arnold, Acting Chief of Enforcement for CDFW. “These enforcement actions not only provide public and consumer safety, but they also combat the illegal cannabis supply chain. I could not be more proud of these dedicated officers.”
The recent raids in the Bay Area and beyond highlight the issue and proliferation of illegal cannabis operations in both urban and rural areas of California.