Drug Law

Marijuana "Eradication" Fiasco Sweeps through California

| by Marijuana Policy Project

by Bruce Mirken

As summer nears its end, marijuana “eradication” efforts are in high gear – and nowhere more so than in California, whose effort is called the “Campaign Against Marijuana Planting” – CAMP for short.

And as usual, the news is filled with stories of CAMP raids like this one, in which whopping numbers of marijuana plants are seized. These are habitually accompanied by breathless tales of criminal gangs despoiling forests and wilderness areas with their marijuana growing operations.

Missing from these reports is any recognition of the evidence that CAMP actually makes these problems worse. Maybe that’s because stories like this one from CNN and this one from The New York Times quote only government sources.

Other than completely failing to “eradicate” marijuana, how does “eradication” make problems associated with marijuana cultivation worse? Take a look at the charts at the bottom of the CAMP page linked above. As the number of plants seized skyrocketed starting in 2002, a key shift occurred: Where once the majority were seized from private land, in recent years the overwhelming majority of seizures have been on public lands – those very national forests the “eradicators” claim to want to protect.

The charts only go through 2006, but the trend has continued. In 2008, CAMP seizures set an all-time record of nearly 3 million plants, with 70 percent seized on public lands.

“Eradication” campaigns appear to have literally driven the growers into the hills.

Two years ago, MPP challenged California Attorney General Jerry Brown – who oversees CAMP — to provide evidence that the program reduces marijuana availability, cultivation in dangerous or environmentally sensitive areas, availability of marijuana to young people, or involvement of criminal gangs in marijuana production and distribution.

He did not respond.