Operation Green Merchant

Last updated: November 19, 2021

What Does Operation Green Merchant Mean?

Operation Green Merchant was used as a code name for a nationwide operation in the United States in the 1990s that aimed to find and shut down marijuana grow ops by targeting businesses that were thought to sell the equipment used to grow.

In particular, this operation targeted various businesses that advertised specialized horticultural equipment thought to be used to cultivate marijuana. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), through the help of the United Parcel Service records, traced the deliveries of indoor growing equipment and seeds. The DEA had mainly targeted the investigation of advertisements of three businesses of the High Times, Sinsemilla Tips, and the Holland Seed Bank owned by Nevil Schoenmakers.

Operation Green Merchant resulted in the arrests of 1,262 people, the dismantling of 977 indoor cannabis grows, and the seizure of $17.5 million in assets. Many people were jailed for anywhere from four to 15 years without any sentence reduction.


Maximum Yield Explains Operation Green Merchant

Operation Green Merchant was the DEA’s attempt to destroy the marijuana growing industry. Undercover DEA agents visited various hydroponics shops, contacted hydroponics wholesalers, and asked for equipment to grow cannabis, posing as medically needy Vietnam veterans, bikers, and hipsters. Later on, the DEA agents not only went undercover, but also tried to bribe the stores by offering them money, women, and guns if they showed them how to cultivate cannabis and sell them equipment for growing.

Operation Green Merchant started on October 26, 1989, a day referred to as “Black Thursday” by the people in the hydroponics industry. The DEA raided hydroponic stores in 46 states, arrested about 119 people, and seized many indoor gardening shops and thousands of cannabis plants.

Sesnimilla Tips went out of business and High Times took many years to recover from the losses suffered after Operation Green Merchant. Tom Alexander, the publisher of Sensimilla Tips, then established the magazine called The Growing Edge where there was zero mention of the marijuana.

Even after Black Thursday, the Operation Green Merchant remained active and also locked down Nevil Schoenmakers, the world’s first international marijuana seed retailer, whose Holland based Seed Bank was an early precursor to Marc Emery Seed Sales and dozens of seed retail imitators.

From 1991 and onward for a period of a few years, the DEA started seeking private information of customers as they raided, questioned, and intimidated hundreds of people and businesses, including scientists and NASA’s horticultural research facilities.

However, Operation Green Merchant came to a halt as the people and libertarian politicians found innocent hydroponics storeowners convicted of cannabis charges based on questionable testimony from tainted informants. This showed that the DEA had entrapped suspects and ruined the lives and businesses of harmless people by sending them to prison based on hearsay.


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