The DEA Seized 5.3 Million Marijuana Plants in 2016
The feds took down 20% more trees than they did the year before, but arrested less people during their raids.
Published on October 9, 2017

New DEA data from 2016 has given us a clear look at cannabis enforcement in America, and it is not a pretty picture. While legal weed is spreading like, well, weeds, the feds are still locking up hundreds of thousands of marijuana users, with more nonviolent cannabis arrests made than for all violent crimes combined. On the clandestine cultivation side of things, the DEA also bolstered their stats, seizing 20% more marijuana plants than the year before.

According to a breakdown from NORML, the DEA seized 5.3 million marijuana plants in 2016, almost a million more than the 4.25 million grabbed in 2015. This marks the highest amount since 2011, before any state had legalized recreational cannabis, when federal agents confiscated 6.7 million plants.

Even with legal weed pushing anti-cannabis politicians into a tailspin of worry over black market bud coming out of Colorado, Washington and Oregon, the DEA’s 2016 cultivation crackdowns were performed in the same manor as previous years, with over 70% of those seizures taking place in California.

Outside of the Golden State, most of the DEA’s grow op attention was focused on Kentucky, Texas, Tennessee, and West Virginia, with those five states accounting for over 90% of country’s seized weed. 

In addition to the location specificity, almost all of the DEA’s raids took place on outdoor farms. Only 7% of the seizures took place at indoor grows. 

But while the number of possession arrests and plants seized spiked significantly from ‘15-’16, the same cannot be said for black market growers, as 5,657 arrests were made as a part of the DEA eradication efforts in 2016, compared to 6,300 arrests while confiscating 20% fewer plants in 2015.

The drop in arrests could mean the feds are taking down bigger farms, making fewer arrests, or are simply raiding grow ops when their owners are nowhere to be seen.

Of course, the DEA still has their ways to make cultivators pay, with over $52 million in other assets seized alongside the plants, an increase of nearly 50% from 2015. 

Now, we would never encourage anyone to grow marijuana on a large scale without state-approved permits or legal distribution channels, but if you were going to, based off the data, we would probably advise keeping your weed indoors and avoiding California, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Texas.

Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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