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Largest Weed Busts in History

Marijuana has been at the center of the global war on drugs for decades. While some countries have moved towards decriminalization or legalization, in many parts of the world, it remains highly illegal and subject to intense law enforcement scrutiny. The following are some of the largest weed busts in history, each highlighting the vast scale and international scope of marijuana trafficking.

1. The Sylmar Warehouse Bust, 2009

The largest marijuana bust in U.S. history took place in a warehouse in the Sylmar neighborhood of Los Angeles. In 2009, federal agents seized approximately 10 tons of marijuana worth an estimated $60 million. This massive operation also involved the confiscation of $10 million in cash and several firearms. The bust was the culmination of an 18-month investigation into a drug trafficking organization believed to have ties to Mexican drug cartels. This operation highlighted the sophisticated and organized nature of marijuana trafficking in the United States.


  • United States Department of Justice. (2009). “Massive drug bust in Los Angeles”. DOJ Press Release.

2. Tijuana, Mexico, 2010

One of the most significant drug busts outside the United States occurred in Tijuana, Mexico, in 2010. Mexican authorities confiscated 134 tons of marijuana after a firefight between police and drug traffickers. This haul was estimated to be worth around $340 million. The operation led to several arrests and was a significant blow to the drug trafficking operations in the region. This bust was part of Mexico’s ongoing efforts to combat the powerful drug cartels that have a history of smuggling large quantities of marijuana into the United States.


  • CNN. (2010). “Massive 134-ton marijuana bust in Tijuana”. CNN World.

3. Philippines, 2008

In the Philippines, a 2008 raid on a marijuana plantation in the province of Kalinga led to the seizure of about 6.2 million marijuana plants. This operation covered an area of 120 hectares and was one of the largest marijuana plantations ever discovered in the country. The Philippine government estimated the value of the seized marijuana at approximately $120 million. This bust was part of a broader anti-narcotics campaign in a country where drug offenses can carry extremely harsh penalties.


  • Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. (2008). “Record-breaking marijuana bust in Kalinga”. PDEA Press Release.

4. Northern California, USA, 2020

In Northern California, an area known for its cannabis cultivation, a 2020 raid resulted in the seizure of over 500,000 marijuana plants and 40 tons of processed cannabis. This operation was one of the largest in California’s history, involving multiple law enforcement agencies. The seized marijuana had an estimated street value exceeding $1 billion, underscoring the massive scale of illegal cannabis operations even in states where marijuana has been legalized for medical and recreational use.


  • California Department of Justice. (2020). “Operation Emerald Triangle”. CDJ Press Release.

5. Australia, 2021

Australia recorded one of its largest marijuana busts in 2021 when police in New South Wales seized about 13,353 cannabis plants valued at over AU$40 million from a remote area. This bust was the result of a lengthy investigation into sophisticated hydroponic operations. The operation underscored the global nature of marijuana cultivation and trafficking, even in countries with stringent drug laws.


  • New South Wales Police Force. (2021). “Operation Greenfield: Largest cannabis bust in Australia”. NSW Police Press Release.


These busts represent only a snapshot of the ongoing global war on drugs. They reflect the vast scale of marijuana trafficking and the extensive resources dedicated by governments worldwide to combat this issue. Despite the changing legal landscape, with many regions moving towards decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, these operations highlight the challenges that law enforcement faces in regions where marijuana remains illegal.

Social and Economic Implications

The social and economic implications of these busts are significant. They not only involve huge amounts of money but also affect thousands of lives, from those directly involved in the drug trade to communities disrupted by drug-related violence and crime. Furthermore, the enforcement of marijuana laws consumes substantial public resources, which could be directed towards other priorities if marijuana were decriminalized or legalized.

The Shift Towards Legalization

As more countries and states reconsider their stance on marijuana, reflecting on these historical busts can provide valuable lessons. The economic benefits from taxing and regulating marijuana, the potential reduction in crime, and the social justice aspect of reducing drug-related incarcerations are compelling reasons for reconsideration of marijuana laws.


United States Department of Justice. (2009). Massive drug bust in Los Angeles. DOJ Press Release.

CNN. (2010). Massive 134-ton marijuana bust in Tijuana. CNN World.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. (2008). Record-breaking marijuana bust in Kalinga. PDEA Press Release.

California Department of Justice. (2020). Operation Emerald Triangle. CDJ Press Release.

New South Wales Police Force. (2021). Operation Greenfield: Largest cannabis bust in Australia. NSW Police Press Release.

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