Operation Green Sweep

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Operation Green Sweep
Part of the War on Drugs
DateNovember July 29, 1990 - August 9, 1990[1]
Result 12 tons of growing equipment and 1400 marijuana plants were eradicated from federal land[1]
 United States Illicit trafficking operators and marijuana growers
Commanders and leaders
Robert C. Thrasher CANG
Roger Bruckner BLM
No organizational structure
60 BLM agents, 110 California National Guardsmen and 60 7th Infantry U.S. Army soldiers, 7 Blackhawk helicopters, and 9 trucks[1] Unknown

Operation Green Sweep was a series of drug raids conducted by over 200 United States Army soldiers, National Guardsmen, and federal agents in Humboldt County, California.[2] The operation was the first time active-duty troops were used to combat marijuana growing in the United States.[2][3] The joint federal and state operation led by the Bureau of Land Management was centered around eradicating marijuana and removing agribusiness paraphernalia from the King Range National Conservation Area, federal land administered by BLM near Petrolia, California.[4][1]

On July 29, 1990, a joint task force converged at a base camp in Humboldt County for what is known as Operation Green Sweep. The operation was led by the Bureau of Land Management and consisted of approximately 60 drug law enforcement agents, 110 California National Guardsmen and 60 regular U.S. Army soldiers[1] from the 7th Infantry Division, the same unit that was used in the invasion of Panama during the previous December.[5] This marked the first time that the government had ever used military force against its own citizens in a drug operation. It also established that law enforcement officials—now cooperating with U.S. military forces—have the ability to search, seize and detain, without warrant or probable cause, in the war on drugs. Property may be seized regardless of evidence and forfeited to the state or federal government without regards to the Fourth Amendment.[6]

A contingent of 200 military troops conducted a massive marijuana eradication program where military helicopters flew overhead surveying residents, homes, and fields, and conducted road blocks, interrogations, and detentions. Violent demonstrations by Humboldt County locals against Green Sweep broke out. The first day of the raid resulted in the seizure of 200 marijuana plants and 700 pounds of farming equipment. Two eradication teams were deployed the very next day and seized a further 523 plants.

Eradication continued on August 1, resulting in 683 plants and 2.6 tons of growing paraphernalia confiscated from the local farmers. Local citizens began attempts to disrupt military communications in order to slow the progress of the raid, the military responded by introducing code words into Task Force radio nets. The operation continued several more days in August. The public continued to protest (sometimes violently) the actions of the military and federal officials. On August 3, local residents threatened a military laundry unit with a pistol and another group fired shots at a UH-60 helicopter.

Though the operation was scheduled to continue until August 10[5] all operations ceased on August 5, most likely due to the escalating demonstrations. The results from the property seized during Operation Green Sweep were: 1400 marijuana plants (worth approximately $2000 each) and 12 tons of growing equipment.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Mendel, William W. (December 1992). "Counterdrug Strategy - Illusive Victory: From Blast Furnace to Green Sweep". Foreign Military Studies Office Publications. Archived from the original on 2017-05-13. Retrieved 2021-12-06.
  2. ^ a b Bishop, Katherine (August 10, 1990). "Military Takes Part in Drug Sweep And Reaps Criticism and a Lawsuit". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
  3. ^ "Soldiers used for first time in pot sweep". Spokane Chronicle. August 10, 1990. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
  4. ^ Walter, Shoshana (October 14, 2020). "In Secretive Marijuana Industry, Whispers of Abuse and Trafficking". kqed.org. Retrieved August 28, 2020.
  5. ^ a b Stein, Mark A. (July 31, 1990). "Army Troops Join Marijuana Raids : Drugs: National Guardsmen also take part in the start of a campaign by the Administration to use active-duty military personnel in the drug ..." Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ H. Jane Lehman, "Expanded War on Drugs May Threaten Landlords," Washington Post, November 17, 1990, p. E1; Michael Isikoff, "Drug Raids Net Much Valuable Property--and Legal Uproar," Washington Post, April 1, 1991, p. A1.

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