Humboldt County seeks more aid from CAMP as policy shift announced
State campaign eradicated 76K plants locally in 2021
California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a shift in the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting’s future operations after seizing nearly 1.2 million illegally cultivated cannabis plants in 2021. Bonta directed the Department of Justice to conduct a six-month review of CAMP “in light of changes to the law since the program was first initiated” with the goal of focusing efforts on environmental degradation, labor exploitation and economic impacts associated with illegal cannabis cultivation. (Screenshot)
Nearly 1.2 million illegally cultivated cannabis plants were eradicated and more than 180,000 pounds of illegally processed cannabis were seized in 2021 through the California Department of Justice’s annual Campaign Against Marijuana Planting program, often referred to as CAMP.
Over the course of the 13-week eradication season, the multi-agency effort conducted 491 operations on both private and public lands in 26 California counties. CAMP teams recovered 165 weapons and removed more than 67,000 pounds of cultivation infrastructure, including dams, water lines and containers of toxic chemicals.
Authorities eradicated 74,669 cannabis plants from 26 illegal sites in Humboldt County, one of the top five largest yields in the state. Riverside County took first place with 509,453 plants eradicated from 135 sites followed by Mendocino, Trinity, Humboldt and Lake counties.
Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal said CAMP only provided the county with additional resources for a period of 2-3 weeks. Between January and mid-August of this year, Honsal said the Sheriff’s Marijuana Enforcement Team “eradicated over 442,000 cannabis plants, seized and destroyed over 38,000 pounds of processed cannabis, served search warrants at 97 illegal cultivation sites and identified more than 500 environmental violations.”
A law enforcement officer loads a trailer with freshly cut cannabis plants to be destroyed. (Department of Justice/Contributed)
“Though California’s legal cannabis market is growing, there is still a thriving illegal market which is responsible for environmental damages, water theft, labor trafficking, and organized crime in our county,” Honsal told the Times-Standard on Wednesday. “The additional staff and resources that CAMP provides Humboldt County is appreciated.”
During a press briefing Monday, state Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a shift in CAMP’s future operations and directed the Department of Justice to conduct a six-month review of the aging program “in light of changes to the law since the program was first initiated” with the goal of focusing efforts on environmental degradation, labor exploitation and economic impacts associated with illegal cannabis cultivation.
“A lot has changed since the CAMP program was founded in 1983. Back then, growing marijuana could have gotten you placed behind bars for decades. In 2021, if you follow the rules, it’s legal here in California. Just as our laws have evolved over the years, so has the CAMP program,” Bonta said. “… CAMP is doing incredible work and that work must and will continue for the 2022 season and beyond. We’re going to have to tackle this from all angles if we’re going to move toward a safe and regulated market here in California.”
Karen Mouritsen, state director for the Bureau of Land Management, emphasized her support for CAMP, adding that her top priority is to “protect public lands and maintain public safety.”
“CAMP’s joint law enforcement efforts provide the BLM (with) an opportunity for a stronger and more effective relationship with all the state and local partners that participate in this effort, both against the illegal cultivation of marijuana and also for all of our management efforts on the public lands,” she said during Monday’s announcement. “Illegal cultivation of marijuana on public land, as the Attorney General said, causes great damage to vegetation and wildlife habitats, poses a danger to visitors, and pollutes sensitive areas with hazardous chemicals.”
“I would encourage the state to expand the program to embed state resources with our local teams, as our local teams are able to identify and direct state resources to address the worst offenders in our county,” he said. “We also encourage the state to continue to utilize the CAMP program to assist the counties with cleaning up trespass grows occurring on state, federal, private, and tribal lands.”
The Attorney General’s announcement comes one month after state Sen. Mike McGuire unveiled a $1.5 million funding strategy to combat violent crime and environmental degradation associated with “the worst of the worst” illicit cannabis grow sites in the Emerald Triangle. The state-allocated grant funds will be used to support and increase law enforcement in remote Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties over the next 12 months.
“Our goal is simple but critical: Keep our community safe, protect our environment and our watersheds,” McGuire said during the Sept. 29 announcement. “This will be a collaborative effort.”
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