One of the 17 states that has yet to legalize recreational or medicinal marijuana is the site of some of the most Drug Enforcement Administration raids in the country. Last year, DEA officials seized and destroyed 418,076 cannabis plants in Kentucky.
But where Kentucky really stood out was the proportion of those plants to the state’s residents. A recent analysis by the American Addiction Centers found that the DEA had busted a hearty 9,356 cannabis plants per 100,000 people living in the state.
California had the second most per capita DEA busts, but at 4,572 plants per 100,000 state residents, it’s hardly keeping up with the Bluegrass State.
Kentucky also took home top honors for having the most per capita amount of illegal grow sites destroyed — 15 per 100,000 people, doubling the second runner up West Virginia, which clocked in at only 7.4 sites per 100,000 people.
The state may see the legalization of medical marijuana next year. Kentucky’s HB 136 would establish a program open to patients with “debilitating illnesses and excruciating pain,” and its primary co-sponsor Jason Nemes says he has the votes necessary to pass the legislation in the state’s House of Representatives in 2020.
The American Addiction Centers analysis reported that the states with the fewest DEA busts were Massachusetts and Wyoming, which went without a single plant being seized in 2018. Delaware, DC, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming all reported having zero grow sites destroyed by the DEA that same year.
The link between rates of illegal and legal cannabis activity in states was not clear from the report. California, which had some of the highest rates of illegal cannabis plants seized by the DEA, has had legal medical marijuana since 1996. Wyoming, which rang up zero busted plants and has no legal medicinal or recreational system, is apparently bulk processing more cannabis than any other state, at 1,095 pounds per 100,000. (American Addiction Centers theorizes in the report that this marijuana is coming from other, legal states.)
Confiscations Possibly Decreasing
Overall totals of DEA cannabis plant busts have dropped significantly. In 2018, the agency named 2.82 million plants, while in 2017 that figure stood at 3.38 million. The government has most certainly still been busy with taking the green though — in 2018, the feds reported seizing over $52 million in illegal cannabis-related assets via the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program.
As the country’s hemp industry begins to revive, the busts have been more complicated. Some hemp farmers have said they were as surprised as federal agents when their crops were seized for having more than the legal THC limit that has been determined for hemp products. In California, one such alleged mix up resulted in a bust of over $1 billion in cannabis whose producers had represented it as hemp.
But even after medical cannabis legalization has spread to 33 states and Washington, D.C., law enforcement continues to rack up history-making marijuana busts. Last year in Rhode Island, officials included bags of marijuana on a spread of the contraband confiscated in a record-setting bust of a local motorcycle gang, a clear indicator that for many, cannabis is still viscerally linked with the criminal element.