The number of Americans supporting the legalization of marijuana in the United States has drastically increased over the last 40 years. In 2017, 64 percent of Americans supported the legalization of the drug, just five years after the first state legalized its recreational use. Today, nine states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana, and a total of 30 states have legalized it for medical use. Still, cannabis is being eradicated aggressively by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). How much cannabis has the DEA eradicated? And which states are responsible for the most marijuana seizures? We gathered data published by the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program (DCE/SP) to find out.
Cannabis plants go through a long process of harvesting, drying, and curing before recreational marijuana is ready to be distributed. In 2017, the DEA eradicated 151,000 pounds of this processed marijuana, the largest amount since the beginning of the DCE/SP. Since its creation, the program has eradicated a total of 841,000 pounds of processed marijuana, which ironically equates to 420 tons.
In case those numbers are hard to digest, just imagine 244 trees. The amount of marijuana eradicated from 2011 to 2017 is around the same amount of leaves that 244 trees will grow and shed over their entire 60-year life span.
The DCE/SP is not only focused on eradicating processed marijuana but is also actively trying to stop the cultivation of cannabis in the United States. The DEA eradicated 32 million cannabis plants from 2011 to 2017, and 90 percent of those plants were grown outdoors – the growth method that yields the most product.
Marijuana eradication is run by a federal agency but is certainly not evenly spread throughout the states. California and Florida have seen the most eradication in the six-year span – California being responsible for 68 percent of all domestic marijuana eradication. South Dakota, on the other hand, has seen the least amount of eradication. The DEA only eradicated 12 pounds of processed marijuana from the state from 2011 to 2017. This might have more to do with the population and agricultural land than it does with actual use, however. While South Dakota has extremely strict marijuana laws – possession under 2 ounces can land you in jail for up to a year.
California also tops the chart as the state with the most cannabis plants eradicated by the DEA. As the state with the largest population and ideal sunny-all-year weather, California is also the leading grower of cannabis in the United States. It wasn’t until January 1, 2018, though, that recreational use of the drug became legalized. The combination of large amounts of cultivation and use being illegal from 2011 to 2017 may be why it’s the leading state for plant eradication.
Perhaps not too surprisingly, as the top pot-producing state in America, California is responsible for the most cannabis grow sites eradicated by the DEA. Interestingly, the DEA claims to be targeting Chinese, Cuban, and Mexican drug cartels illegally growing marijuana. According to law enforcement, cartels are finding states where marijuana has been legalized to hide their growth and distribute within other states or across the border. However, this would likely mean that Colorado, where marijuana cultivation has skyrocketed, and Washington, where organized criminals are known to be growing marijuana, would be high on the list for DEA eradication. Yet neither state made the top 10.
Evolution of Eradication
The number of plants eradicated from year to year can vary greatly. Arkansas saw a 1,227-percent increase in the number of eradicated plants between 2016 and 2017 – an increase of around 58,000 plants. Most states, however, saw a decrease in the eradication of plants over the same year. Oregon had the largest decrease – around 66,000 fewer plants eradicated in 2017 than six years prior. Oregon’s legalization of recreational marijuana in July of 2015 may be the catalyst for such a drastic decline.
More Than Weed
Along with the amount of marijuana eradicated, the DEA has recorded other statistics related to growth operations, including total seized assets, arrests, and weapons confiscated. While the stats seem to be on a decline over the six-year period we examined, 2016 was the year with a shockingly high amount of assets seized, totaling $52 million – $10 million more than the DEA program’s first year. There was no large-scale operation that year, but some speculate the nearing of recreational legalization led to the government homing in on asset laws and seizing assets of legal dispensaries.
In 2017, Washington had the most total seized assets, coming in at around $4.7 million. California led the states in total arrests with 1,283, and Indiana had the most weapons confiscated with 483.
Profits From Plants
Whether one supports marijuana legalization or not, there’s no denying the marijuana industry has the potential to bring in loads of money. If the marijuana eradicated by the DEA was sold commercially, it would be worth nearly $4 billion, or over $600 million a year. Add an average tax rate of 18.8 percent and the total possible tax revenue from the eradicated marijuana is over $737 million. But that’s just processed marijuana. If the processed marijuana and unprocessed cannabis plants were both sold and taxed, it would total over $170 billion in retail revenue and $32 billion in tax revenue.
While money should never be a reason to use or sell drugs, the potential revenue could be directed toward education, which only makes up 1.4 percent of current government spending. The money made from marijuana sales could potentially be turned into drug education – educating the public on safe recreational use and the dangers of addiction, which could be helpful in lowering death and addiction rates.
States may be moving in the direction of legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana use, but the drug still remains a Schedule I substance and illegal under federal law. Despite its common use, marijuana can lead to long-term effects and withdrawal symptoms that can wreak havoc on people’s lives. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction of any kind, there is help. At ProjectKnow, we have all the information you need to know about addiction, recovery, and lasting sobriety. From learning more about substances and their effects to finding the best treatment, we are here to help. Visit us online today to learn more.
We collected data and statistics from the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program from 2011 to 2017. Data were retrieved in September 2018. The annual reports provide statistics on the number of eradicated cannabis grow sites, cultivated plants, bulk processed marijuana, arrests, assets seized, and weapons confiscated, broken down by state.
In estimating the possible retail and tax revenue from eradicated marijuana, we assumed an average retail price of $10.31 per gram and an average tax rate of 18.8% according to data from weedindex.io and the United Nations World Drug Report 2017. In estimating the total retail and tax revenue of eradicated plants, we assumed an average yield of 500 grams per plant, according to themaven.net.
3 The estimated average annual retail revenue of eradicated marijuana from 2011 to 2017 ($28,452,764,064) divided by the total amount the U.S. spent on Navy military personnel (28,122,000,000) in 2017.
4 The estimated average annual tax revenue of eradicated marijuana from 2011 to 2017 ($5,337,388,797) was divided by the estimated total 2019 budget authority for NOAA ($4,790,000,000).
5 The average estimated tax revenue of eradicated marijuana from 2011 to 2017 ($5,337,388,797) was divided by McDonald’s 2017 profits ($5,192,300,000).
6 The total estimated retail revenue of eradicated marijuana for 2011 to 2017 ($170,716,584,386) divided by the total estimated budget authority for the 2019 Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund ($151,973,000,000).
7 The estimated average annual tax revenue of eradicated marijuana from 2011 to 2017 ($5,337,388,797) divided by the cost of the National Park Service’s estimated 2019 expenditures ($3,588,000,000).
8 The total estimated retail revenue of eradicated marijuana for 2011 to 2017 ($170,716,584,386) divided by ATT’s 2017 revenue ($160,546,000,000).
9 The total estimated total tax revenue ($32,024,332,781) divided by the total estimated cost of grants the Department of Education distributed to local educational institutions in 2018 ($14,811,458,000).
10 The total estimated retail revenue of eradicated marijuana for 2011 to 2017 ($170,716,584,386) divided by the total cost of SNAP Welfare Assistance for 2017 ($68,055,580,000).
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