California’s rapidly cutting down on the illegal cannabis trade

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California seized about $1 billion in illegal cannabis last year, giving the legal industry a boost

Seven years after cannabis legalization, California is full of signs of the industry’s apparent growth. Californians can smoke Justin Bieber-brand joints and toss the ashes into $95 ashtrays made by Seth Rogen. But behind this facade, the legal cannabis industry remains far from the thriving, law-abiding sector many had hoped for. The illegal market remains a reality, although regulators have now stepped up to the plate. According to recent reports, $1 billion worth of illegal cannabis was seized in California last year.

In the Golden State, it appears that law enforcement has been mandated to focus on seizing illicit marijuana. As of last summer, it appears that effort has paid off with a record $1 billion worth of marijuana being taken off the streets. The news was announced yesterday by state cannabis authorities.

The 2016 law, known as Proposition 64, granted municipalities the power to ban marijuana as they saw fit. Most cities and counties still do not allow cannabis sales, which hobbles the growth of the legal market. In places that do allow commerce and cultivation, owners say high taxes, a shortage of licenses, and regulatory costs have put the legal market out of reach.

California has been working to address those issues as soon as possible, which is why three state agencies have merged into a new organization charged with overseeing the entire marijuana market. This team has directed and assisted other agencies in serving 232 search warrants through which they “seized more than half a million pounds of illegal products and eradicated more than 1.4 million cannabis plants,” says Nicole Elliott, the director of the California Department of Cannabis Control.