Press Release

Senator Marie Alvarado-Gil Pushes for More Stringent Measures on Illegal Cannabis Enforcement and Asset Forfeiture

SACRAMENTO – Senator Marie Alvarado-Gil (D-Jackson) presented Senate Bill 820 on the Senate Floor Monday afternoon, addressing the need for more rigorous cannabis enforcement to enhance public safety, protect the environment, and incentivize illegal growers to enter the legal market. The bill would also allow law enforcement to seize specific property located at illegal marijuana cultivation sites after an inspection warrant has been obtained.

Existing law authorizes the seizure of property used in the unlicensed manufacturing of hard liquor (i.e., moonshining), but does not apply to the unlicensed production of cannabis. Many illicit cannabis operations are able to quickly recover following enforcement actions due to complicit landlords, exploitation of workers, and remaining specialty equipment used for the cultivation and manufacturing of cannabis.

In 2021, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife eradicated 2.6 million illegal cannabis plants, seized 794 firearms, discarded over 32,000 pounds of trash from public lands, and removed 404 illegal water diversions. Additionally, the Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce seized a combined total of $9.5 million in cash, and a retail value of over $1.3 billion in seized cannabis product between 2021 and 2022.

“We are almost seven years post implementation of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana, and still seeing the negative impacts of illegal cannabis cultivation on the legal market. Unlicensed cannabis farms put law-abiding growers, those who pay required fees and taxes, at a great disadvantage. Additionally, the impact on the legal market has had a disproportionate effect on social equity retailers,” said Senator Alvarado-Gil.

Senator Alvarado-Gil is intent on protecting small businesses that cultivate less than 1,000 plants, in addition to protecting workers employed by illegal growers. SB 820 would target unlicensed cultivation sites containing over 1,000 marijuana plants and would enable law enforcement to dismantle the equipment used in those illegal grows as a deterrent for relaunching illegal operations. Additionally, unlicensed cannabis businesses currently working to obtain licensure from the state would be exempt from these seizures. SB 820 would invest 15-percent of enforcement proceeds to the local jurisdiction and 85-percent of funds into the Cannabis Control Fund to support equity programs.

“SB 820 is a solution to ensure the integrity of the legal cannabis market, and to encourage licensed cultivation. The Cannabis Equity Act is a pivotal piece of legislation to prioritize the historic nature of communities negatively impacted by cannabis criminalization. The intent of SB 820 is to dis-incentivize illegal grows while protecting dedicated dollars for the Cannabis Control Fund - social equity funds to reinvest in the legal, regulated cannabis market,” the Senator added.

Chris Lopez, Board Chair of Rural County Representatives of California, supports SB 820 saying, “The battle against the illicit cannabis market has been a persistent and formidable challenge for our counties. Struggling with limited resources, it is of utmost importance to equip local government with enforcement tools that can truly make a difference. SB 820 will disrupt the financial operations of unlicensed growers and reinvest those funds into bolstering licensed cannabis businesses.”

SB 820 advanced from the Senate Floor with 36 AYE votes. The bill now heads to the Assembly Business and Professions Committee and the Assembly Public Safety Committee.


Senator Alvarado-Gil represents the 4th Senate District including the Counties of Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Inyo, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne.