Last Week in Weed


Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog from The Simpa Life

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, we’ll be looking at a billion-dollar cannabis bust in California, new figures showing that UK police are seizing cannabis every 4 minutes, and Tilray completes the first harvest of GMP ‘Medical cannabis’ in Germany.

Largest cannabis bust in Los Angeles Country history

$1.19 billion ‘illegal’ cannabis bust in California

The first story that we’re going to look at this week is a billion-dollar weed bust in California. Last Wednesday Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department announced that it had seized 16 tons of cannabis. Nearly 375,000 plants and 33,480 pounds (15,187kg) of cannabis flower with an estimated value of $1.2 billion.

The eye-watering haul was found following a 10-day sting operation across 200 locations in Southern California. The operation began on June 8th and resulted in 22 felony arrests, 109 misdemeanor arrests, and 19 arrests by the water theft enforcement team. 65 vehicles and 180 animals were also seized by authorities during the operation.

Local officials have stated that they believe ‘International cartels’ are responsible for setting up and maintaining these large-scale ‘illegal’ farms. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Narcotic Bureau detectives have identified over 500 unlicensed cultivation sites in 2021, up from 150 in 2020. They also found the average size of these clandestine grows has nearly doubled from 8 greenhouses to 15 in the last 12 months.

“We’re talking about the cartels, we are not talking about mom and pop people selling marijuana that they grew in their backyard. This is the cartels. We are very very close to driving down the freeway and seeing bodies hanging from the overpasses. That is what’s coming.” – Mayor Rex Parris , Lancaster, California

The scale of this unregulated operation shows that there is still a huge hole in the ‘legal’ supply chain. The regulated market in California was worth $4.4 billion in 2020, up 57% from the previous year – with a billion dollars being collected in various state taxes. However, this is only a minuscule amount compared to the unregulated legacy market that is estimated to of supplied 80% of cannabis consumed in California in 2020.

“What we want to do is send a clear and loud message to the cartels and anyone doing an illegal operation in the high desert: Your days are over and we’re coming for you” – Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva

The vast void created by the arrogance, ignorance, and greed of ‘big weed’ is inevitably going to be filled by entrepreneurial individuals, organised groups, and yes, unfortunately, international cartels. The vapid and vain vulture capitalists riding high atop the ‘green wave’ fail to understand the wants and needs of the existing legacy market and as far as I can see always will. After all corporate greed doesn’t make for good weed. 

“This illegal activity is impacting the quality of life for residents and businesses and if left unaddressed will have long-lasting and devastating effects in the region. This is an issue that is plaguing, and will continue to plague, if we do not make it very uncomfortable and one way to make it uncomfortable is to prosecute” – Kathryn Barger, LA county supervisor 

The language used in statements made by LA officials is highly reminiscent of the ‘tough on drugs’ approach of former US Presidents Nixon or Reagan. Hyperbole statements and the use of keywords and phrases to instill a sense of fear and dread – classic reefer madness tactics. 

The unregulated legacy market in the US was estimated to be worth $63 billion in 2020 and isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Isn’t it time the ‘legal’ market acknowledges that they have built their fiefdom on the back of the legacy market? 

The ‘legal’ regulated cannabis industry must respect and fight for those victimised and terrorised by decades of its prohibition. They must seek above all else to accept their place in pushing for social equity, social justice, and to attempt to right the wrongs created by criminalising what they now sell freely.

The roots, history, and legacy of millions of individual lives ruined by prohibition must be addressed. The racist, classist, and villainous motives for its creation and perpetuation have to see the light of day. Ultimately, we are not free until we are all free to grow, possess, and consume as much cannabis, however, and whenever we choose. 

Police seizing cannabis every 4 minutes in England and Wales

New figures show that Police are confiscating cannabis 358 times a day in England and Wales.

New figures released by the UK Home Office show that cannabis is once again the most commonly confiscated drug by police in England and Wales. During the year ending March 2020, cannabis was found in 71% of all drug seizures in the UK nations. 

During that period there were 130,751 seizures of cannabis – an increase of 21% from the preceding year. Seizures of cannabis flower increased 22% and seizures of cannabis resin rose by 20% last year.

A total of 8,984 cannabis farms were discovered across England and Wales, with 490,254 plants being seized and destroyed – an increase of nearly 25% compared to 2019. UK Border Force also stopped over 5,000 packages containing cannabis flowers from entering the UK – the highest number in 24 years.

Cannabis production not only feeds a multi-million-pound illicit market, but cannabis is also an increasingly potent and harmful drug and a key driver in other serious criminality. Police continue to see a number of significant cannabis cultivation operations, often linked to serious and organised crime networks, and we work closely with other law enforcement agencies to target those responsible. 

We will continue to focus efforts on the criminals and organised gangs who are destroying lives and fuelling the violence we’re seeing on our streets. Our tactics are already showing some success, with a 21 percent increase in the overall amount of cannabis seized by police” – Deputy Chief Constable Jason Harwin, The National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Drugs

The National Crime Agency (NCA) released a recent assessment on serious organised crime that reveals that cannabis is now the largest single drug market. The agency estimates that £2.4 billion of cannabis is consumed annually in England and Wales. It has been a record-breaking year for forces across the country with West Midlands police finding more than 6,000 plants in just one bust. The massive operation was spread over 40 rooms in a property in Walsall. 

The authorities in this country are celebrating these figures as if they actually reflect a reduction in the availability of cannabis in the UK. The removal of small-time growers and dealers over the past 50 years has cleared the way for increasingly violent gangs to take over the production and supply of cannabis in most major cities in England and Wales. 

The latest manifestation of the systemic failings of consecutive governments is ‘CountyLines’ and the deliberate targeting and exploiting of impoverished youth. This is a symptom of a far sicker society than any of us realised we’re living in. One whose pathology can be traced back to decades of divisive and destructive governmental policies, racism, and classism. 

With one hand, the state is destroying billions of pounds of cannabis and with the other denying some of the most vulnerable and sick in our society access to desperately needed cannabis on the NHS. We produce the most cannabis in the world on this little island, isn’t it time the people we’re afforded the same opportunity for fiscal, physical, spiritual, and mental liberation?

The ‘medical cannabis industrial complex’ argues they are the only ones capable of providing consistent quality cannabis for use as a therapeutic medicine in the UK. The recent product recall of Noidecs flower for dangerous toxic mould heavily contradicts this assertion. One way to settle this debate for good would be to test all of those seized products and compare them to the products being produced by the Pharma cartels. Unless of course, they’re scared of what the results would tell us. 

Tilray completes first GMP harvest in Germany

Tilray completes first GMP harvest in Germany

In our final story this week, we’ll be discussing one of the monoliths of the ‘legal’ cannabis industry. We have covered this Canadian powerhouse extensively throughout this blog series as I feel, for better or worse highly influential on the international stage. The latest act performed by Tilray is the completion of its first harvest of GMP-certified pharmaceutical-grade cannabis in Germany. 

Our harvest in Germany represents an important milestone in granting access to high-quality and trustworthy medical cannabis to patients and healthcare professionals in Germany. It is a testament to the professionalism and dedication of our team that, despite the challenges of a global pandemic, we remained on track as the first licensed producer to cultivate medical cannabis in Germany. –Denise Faltischek, Chief strategy officer at Tilray

Aphria RX GmbH a German subsidiary of Tilray, announced last week that it had completed its first harvest of its GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certified ‘medical cannabis’ in the country. The crop was produced at the companies new 6,000 square foot facility in Neumünster, Germany. 

The European Union represents a powerful growth market for us and, among its constituent markets, Germany possesses the greatest potential. We look forward to leveraging our strong medical platform and our multifaceted international operation, which combines in-country cultivation, importation, and large distribution infrastructure, to increase access and availability to high-quality, consistent medical cannabis for all European patients.”

Tilray’s achievement in Germany serves as a strong affirmation that we are competitively differentiated by scale and proven execution skills. As a result, we are poised to transform the industry globally with our highly scalable footprint, portfolio of diverse medical cannabis brands, and compelling products that respond to a wide range of patient and consumer needs. The E.U. is central to our worldwide distribution network, and we look forward to accelerating our progress.” –Irwin D. Simon, Tilray CEO 

The pharmaceutical-grade cannabis flower produced at this new GMP-certified facility will be sold to the now estimated 100,000, and growing ‘medical cannabis’ patients in the EU-member nation. Germany ‘legalised’ ‘medical cannabis’ back in March 2017, but since the law change has suffered much the same fate as the UK – plenty of demand but little domestic production and access. This has made German patients and pharmacies dependant on imported cannabis from countries like Canada and the Netherlands. 

Tilray was the first international cannabis company to export a ‘medical cannabis’ product to the European Union back in 2016. They quickly followed this up in 2017 with a multimillion Euro facility in Portugal. Its continued steamrolling of foreign markets is something that I expect to continue deep into this decade. 

This latest milestone for the company comes off the back of another recent success in another foreign market for Tilray. The launch of its first Canadian craft cannabis brew in the US, through its subsidiary SweetWater Brewing Company in partnership with Canada’s Broken Coast Cannabis Ltd. 

So as Tilray looks poised to take over the world by diversifying its products and portfolio, I cannot help but wonder how all of this connected to the formation of a British think tank and the 2018 campaign to ‘legalise’ ‘medical cannabis’ in the UK.

Written by Simpa for


Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.