Sale and consumption of pot is, of course, legal in California – so long as producers, retailers, and consumers do their business according to regulations. But because not all actors in the sector are following those rules, drones are being brought in to help authorities crack down on illegal marijuana growers.
When California legalized pot for recreational purposes in 2016, it liberated a new and increasingly massive business activity (not, however, for drone deliveries, which remain prohibited). A $4 billion largely underground market when California lifted its legal ban, the marijuana sector last year generated over $35 billion in sales, and nearly a billion in tax revenues. But now Big Cannabis is also about to, ahem, dope drone sales as authorities turn to the craft to identify regulation-breaking growers.
Use of uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) for that purpose has already been cleared by Nevada County, about 150 miles northeast of Sacramento. According to local reports, the county’s board of supervisors approved a trial program Tuesday to fly the craft to battle an expanding number of illegal pot producers in the area.
The testing of drones to track down illegal marijuana growers – whose numbers are estimated at between 3,500 and 4,000 in Nevada County, or nearly 97% of the total – is budgeted at $10,000. Municipalities and counties farther northwest will be watching that effort carefully, as they contemplate whether to transplant drone inspection to what has traditionally been California’s heartland of cannabis growing (both before and after the 2016 legalization).
Flying drones to weed out illegal marijuana growers
Officials say local producers break rules in a variety of ways. Some are not compliant with basic