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Law Enforcement Seized $37 Million of Illegal Marijuana in Northern California, New Jersey Grant Program Awards $12 Million in Funding to Cannabis Businesses, and The USDA Greenlights the Growing and Breeding of Genetically Engineered Hemp in the U.S

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Law Enforcement Seized $37 Million of Illegal Marijuana in Northern California

California’s main marijuana regulatory body, the Department of Cannabis Control, told MJBizDaily that the state’s illegal cannabis market is larger than the regulated one. While there are no specific monetary figures to support this claim, the state created the Unified Cannabis Enforcement Taskforce (UCETF) last year to combat the issue of illicit marijuana grows. The statewide task force uses the coordinated efforts of local, state, and federal agencies. UCETF recently conducted a raid targeting a substantial illegal grow operation in Oakland. The raid was led by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and resulted in the seizure of thousands of cannabis plants and almost 2,000 pounds of processed marijuana. State officials estimate the worth of the illegal marijuana to total nearly $37 million, but no arrests were made in connection with the seizure. 

New Jersey Grant Program Awards $12 Million in Funding to Cannabis Businesses

Under the state’s Cannabis Equity Grant Program, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) awarded $12 million in funding to 48 cannabis businesses throughout the state. Originally, the program was intended to provide $250,000 for 24 cannabis businesses. However, Governor Phil Murphy was able to get additional funds to allow another 24 businesses to receive grant money. The first round of the program is called the Joint Ventures Grant and it is meant to help business owners make the transition from a temporary conditional license to an annual one. Social equity applicants received 40 percent of the grant money during this first round, and five percent of the funding went to businesses in what are being called “Impact Zones” – or areas adversely affected by the War on Drugs. 

The USDA Greenlights the Growing and Breeding of Genetically Engineered Hemp in the U.S.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that a genetically engineered hemp plant is safe to grow and breed in the U.S. The plant was genetically modified to have lower levels of THC and CBC (cannabichromene). The company behind the modified hemp plant is the Fort Wayne, Indiana-based biotechnology firm Growing Together Research. Earlier in 2023, the company announced that it had successfully created the “first known stable transformation and regeneration of multiple THC-free hemp cultivars.” Upon review, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) found that the genetically altered hemp plants do not pose any additional pest risk, making it safe to grow and breed. In June 2023, Growing Together Research said it would begin working to increase THC levels in cannabis plants.