Operation Green Sweep

Last updated: November 19, 2021

What Does Operation Green Sweep Mean?

Operation Green Sweep is best described as the first-ever task force that saw active duty troops used to overcome the cultivation of marijuana in the United States. Operation Green Sweep began on July 29, 1990, when a series of drug raids were conducted by more than 200 US Army soldiers, national guardsmen, and federal agents in the Humboldt County in California.

Around 60 drug law enforcement agents, 110 California national guardsmen, and 60 soldiers from the 7th Infantry Division joined forces and the mission was led by the Bureau of Land Management. While the operation helped curb a lot of marijuana production, it faced a lot of resistance.

Defying resistance, the total amount of properties seized during Operation Green Sweep included 1,400 cannabis plants, with an estimated value of $2,000 each, and 12 tons of cultivation equipment and materials, with the ability to produce cannabis plants worth a lot more.


Maximum Yield Explains Operation Green Sweep

Since it was the first time that the government had ever used military force against its own citizens for a drug operation, Operation Green Sweep reinforced the idea that law enforcement officials have the ability to search, seize and detain individuals, without warrant or probable cause, under the War on Drugs. As a result, property could be seized regardless of evidence, allowing the state or federal government to work with immunity from the Fourth Amendment.

Under the mission, more than 200 military troops conducted a huge marijuana eradication program with a range of military aircraft flying overhead surveying residents, homes, and fields as well as road blocks, interrogations, and detentions of suspects.

Eventually, violent demonstrations and backlash against Operation Green Sweep broke out and were help by Humboldt County locals. There were complaints from the locals citing the indiscriminate surveillance and war-like tactics. Meanwhile, the military persisted and overcame local attempts to protest and mislead military efforts against marijuana.

The first day of Operation Green Sweep resulted in the seizures of 200 cannabis plants, 700 pounds of farming equipment, and a few trespassing arrests. The eradication teams further seized 523 more marijuana plants the next day, establishing the event as a massive marijuana eradication effort.

Operation Green Sweep continued on and by August, 1,1990, resulted in the confiscation and disintegration of 683 plants and 2.6 tons of growing paraphernalia from local farmers. Despite being commissioned to work until August 10, 1990, the operation came to an abrupt halt on August 5 due to the escalation of violent protests and demonstrations.


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