Sheriff’s Department seeks County approval to join DEA program

Marijuana. Katharine Lotze/Signal

The LA County Sheriff’s Department is asking the Board of Supervisors for permission to join a cannabis eradication program created by the Drug Enforcement Administration, according to Tuesday’s agenda for the supervisors’ meeting.

The Domestic Cannabis Eradication Suppression Program, or DCESP, was created by the DEA to stop the spread of cannabis growing in the United States. It started in 1979 with the funding of eradication programs in California and Hawaii. By 1985 all 50 states had began participating, according to the DEA’s website.

In 2016, the DCESP eradicated 5,348,922 plants in the United States, and 3,777,937 of those plants were in California, according to the DEA’s website.

If approved,the program will allow the Sheriff’s Department to work with the DEA funds to locate and “eradicate” non-permitted or unlicensed cannabis plants and to investigate and prosecute those cases in courts.

The Sheriff’s Department’s involvement with the program would involve law enforcement efforts provided by the Department’s Narcotics Bureau and its Marijuana Eradication Team. Their primary goal is find those that use public land for the commercial growing and illicit distribution of cannabis then arrest and prosecute them, according to the supporting documents in Tuesday’s agenda.

In 2017, the Sheriff’s Department conducted 82 operations, that eradicated 80,786 plants and seized 97 firearms. This led to 78 felony arrests and 8,375 pounds of trash that were removed from the forest, according to the agenda documents.

Once approved the DEA will pay $238,000, as an advanced reward, in federal funds to finance the Sheriff’s Department’s costs with the eradication and suppression of cannabis.

The use of public land to grow cannabis can cause severe damage to the environment harming forests, streams and local wildlife. Cannabis growers can illegally divert streams and dam them to provide water for their crop. The unregulated water use can help add to drought conditions, according to the supporting documents in Tuesday’s agenda.

The agreement will go before the Board of Supervisors during Tuesday’s meeting.

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