- The DEA and its partners arrested fewer individuals for cannabis-related offenses in 2022 compared to the previous year.
- The agency seized nearly 6 million cannabis plants from illicit marijuana grows across the US.
- Total seizures of cannabis plants in 2022 were the highest since 2011.
- Despite the legalization of cannabis in many states, high levels of interdictions and arrests persist.
- California saw the most enforcement action by the DEA, accounting for the majority of seizures and arrests.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and its law enforcement partners reported a decline in cannabis-related arrests in 2022 compared to the previous year. The agency also seized approximately 6 million cannabis plants from illegal marijuana grows across the country, slightly more than the number seized in 2021.
The DEA’s yearly Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program Statistical Report revealed that the agency and its partners confiscated 5.7 million marijuana plants through nationwide eradication operations, a 3% increase compared to the previous year. Federal interdiction efforts also resulted in the seizure of about 37,000 THC-infused edible products and 60,000 cannabis concentrates.
According to the DEA’s annual report, the agency eradicated 4,435,859 illegally cultivated outdoor cannabis plants and 1,245,980 illegally cultivated indoor plants, totaling 5,681,839 illegal marijuana plants. The program also removed 2,840 weapons from cannabis cultivators.
Most Cannabis Plants Seized in More Than a Decade
The number of cannabis plants seized by the DEA in 2022 is the highest total since 2011. After steadily declining, seizures spiked in 2021 when the agency eradicated over 5.5 million cannabis plants. However, cannabis-related arrests decreased in 2022, with 5,061 arrests compared to 6,606 in the previous year, representing a 24% reduction. Additionally, federal agents and local law enforcement partners reported seizing $45 million in assets, less than half of the $103 million seized the previous year.
Morgan Fox, the political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), highlighted the continued high levels of cannabis interdictions and arrests despite the legalization of medical and adult-use marijuana in many states. Fox stated that the bans on regulated adult-use cannabis markets in more than half of US states, along with the federal government’s taxation and limited access to basic financial services for state-licensed cannabis businesses, contribute to the persistent eradication and interdiction efforts.
The DEA’s data on cannabis arrests and seizures are compiled annually as part of the Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program (DCE/SP). The program, which targets drug trafficking organizations involved in cannabis cultivation, began in 1979 in Hawaii and California. It expanded to 25 states by 1982 and included all 50 states by 1985. In 2022, 37 states participated in the DCE/SP.
Despite the legalization of cannabis in California in 2016, the state saw the highest number of interdictions by the DEA in 2022. The agency and its law enforcement partners seized 4.9 million cannabis plants, accounting for 88% of the total seizures, and made 52% of the arrests. Dale Gieringer, coordinator of the California branch of NORML, noted that the underground operators in the state continue to supply illicit marijuana to states where cannabis remains prohibited.
Other states also recorded significant numbers of seized plants, including Oklahoma with 342,746, Kentucky with 184,295, and West Virginia with 50,301. Despite the ongoing prohibition of recreational marijuana in these states, the seizures highlight the need for a reconsideration of cannabis policy in the country.
Advocates for cannabis reform argue that spending billions of dollars on enforcing federal cannabis prohibition, putting law enforcement officers at risk, and hindering the effectiveness of state-regulated markets is not a sustainable solution. They call for sensible policies that support regulated cannabis markets and address the harms caused by decades of prohibition.
1. How many cannabis plants did the DEA seize in 2022?
The DEA seized approximately 6 million cannabis plants from illegal marijuana grows in 2022.
2. Did cannabis-related arrests increase or decrease in 2022?
Cannabis-related arrests decreased in 2022 compared to the previous year.
3. Which state saw the highest number of interdictions by the DEA?
California had the highest number of interdictions by the DEA in 2022, despite the legalization of cannabis in the state.
4. Why are there still high levels of cannabis interdictions and arrests?
Advocates attribute this to the bans on regulated adult-use cannabis markets in many states and the federal government’s taxation and limited access to financial services for state-licensed cannabis businesses.
5. What do advocates for cannabis reform suggest?
Advocates suggest implementing sensible policies that support regulated cannabis markets and address the harms caused by decades of prohibition.