Last year, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) seized 37% fewer cannabis plants than they did in 2016, according to the agency’s annual Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program Statistical Report. In 2017, the DEA busted over 4,000 outdoor cannabis grows and almost 1,400 indoor grows, seizing over 3 million cannabis plants. In the previous year, the agency busted around 5,500 outdoor grows and 1,900 indoor grows, destroying over 5 million cannabis plants.
Nearly three-quarters of all of the marijuana plants seized last year came from California, the country’s largest supplier of black market weed. The feds busted 1,514 illegal grow-ops in the Golden State last year, destroying nearly 2.5 million plants and seizing over $2.5 million in assets. The total number of seized plants fell 35% since 2016, when recreational cannabis was still illegal in the state. California still supplies the country’s cannabis black market with over 11 million tons of weed annually, much of it harvested in illegal grow-ops that are poisoning the environment with pesticide runoff.
Conservative Midwestern and Southern states were also popular targets for federal pot raids, although significantly less so than California. The DEA confiscated 472,927 cannabis plants in Kentucky last year, along with 74,599 in West Virginia, 62,323 plants in Arkansas, and 60,658 in Indiana. Idaho, Delaware, and Kansas had the lowest number of federal pot busts, with only 10, 56, and 66 plants seized, respectively.
DEA seizures of marijuana increased 20% from 2015 to 2016, but the extensive decrease seen last year is hopefully indicative of a shift in federal drug enforcement policy. Despite Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ constant threats to crack down on all forms of marijuana, the Department of Justice is under pressure from bipartisan politicians to back off from its war on weed. There are currently a number of bills in Congress that would protect states’ rights to legalize cannabis, which President Trump has even promised to support.
The DEA will also have to keep its hands off state-legal medical marijuana operations for the near future. Earlier this month, Rep. David Joyce got the House Appropriations Committee to add an amendment to the 2019 fiscal year budget that will prevent the DoJ from spending any of its funds prosecuting state-legal cannabis.
Further protections for states’ legal pot industries may come from a recent Supreme Court ruling that found that it was unconstitutional for the government to force states to adhere to federal prohibition policies, which could apply to cannabis as well as gambling.