California has launched a statewide public information campaign urging cannabis users to stick to legal dispensaries and shun their unlicensed counterparts.

The “Get #weedwise” digital program will warn consumers they could end up with marijuana contaminated by mould, chemicals, and fecal matter if they visit unlicensed businesses. The ads direct consumers to the California Bureau of Cannabis Control’s online license search service, where they can find licensed dispensaries nearby.

Businesses operating without a license are also warned that they face a clampdown from the authorities and that cannabis and cash will be confiscated.

“We believe that this campaign will directly impact consumer safety by clarifying that only cannabis purchased from licensed retailers has met the state’s safety standards, while sending a clear message to unlicensed businesses that they need to get licensed or shut down,” said Lori Ajax, chief of the Bureau of Cannabis Control.

It is multilingual and includes “extensive outreach” designed to educate consumers via a number of different channels. Messages include: what’s in your weed shouldn’t be a mystery; do you know what’s hiding in your counterfeit edibles; and does your oil have something to hide?

It follows increasingly impassioned calls from licensed dispensaries demanding the authorities clamp down on the illegal operators thriving across the Golden State. Trade group the California Minority Alliance has written to Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office, threatening to sue if it does not take action to stamp out the threat that unlicensed retailers pose to the city’s legal businesses.

In Santa Barbara, authorities have seized more than 18,000 kg of illegally grown cannabis following a raid over the weekend. It followed a two-month investigation and the intricate raid took four days to complete. Officials say they are hunting the owner of the property.

The officers destroyed about 350,000 cannabis plants, which were being grown on a 60-acre plot outside Buellton, around 140 miles from Los Angeles. The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Army National Guard Counter Drug Task Force all teamed up for the operation. Licensed dispensaries hope to see a similar level of force applied to illegal dispensaries in the state.