Oregon illegal pot growsWednesday, October 20, 2021
SALEM, Oregon (AP) — On the same day last week that a southern Oregon county declared a state of emergency amid a sharp increase in illegal cannabis farms, police raided a site that had about two tons of processed marijuana and 17,500 pot plants.
The raid illustrates that the proliferation of industrial-scale marijuana farms has got so bad and so brazen that Jackson County commissioners asked Governor Kate Brown to send in the Oregon National Guard “to assist, as able, in the enforcement of laws related to the production of cannabis”. They also directly appealed to Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek for help getting additional funding to tackle the problem.
During last Wednesday's raid in Medford, near the California border, police found a vast outdoor growing operation, plus harvested plants hanging upside down on drying racks and 3,900 pounds (1,800 kilogrammes) of resinous buds stashed in huge bags and in stacks of plastic storage containers.
The officers took 26 migrant workers into custody, interviewed them, and then released them. An arrest warrant was issued for the primary suspect, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office said.
Courtney said he is so concerned about the surge in illegal marijuana farms in Jackson and neighbouring Josephine counties that he agrees the Oregon National Guard should be sent in.
Many of the illegal growers are armed.
“You can't solve it just at the local level, and you cannot solve it, I'm afraid, just at the usual state level, and have some more state troopers down there,” the Democrat said. “The National Guard, they're going to have to get deployed down there some way or other.”
Brown, also a Democrat, is holding off on a deployment for now, but could reconsider next year, her office said.
The Josephine County commissioners wrote to Courtney in August to describe how migrant workers are being exploited and subjected to “appalling conditions” while living in tents with no toilets, no running water or bathing facilities, unrefrigerated food, and unsanitary cooking facilities.
Jackson and Josephine counties are considered the northern extension of the Emerald Triangle, a fabled marijuana-growing epicentre of which California's Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties form the major part.
The increasing calls for National Guard intervention recalls the drug wars of the 1990s, when the citizen-soldiers were used, including in Missouri and California.
In California's Humboldt County back then, some 200 Army soldiers, National Guardsmen and federal agents raided clandestine pot farms in rugged terrain. Residents responded with protests.
Both Oregon and California, in recent years, legalised the cultivation, processing and sale of marijuana, so long as those involved enter the regulated systems in each state and abide by the rules. While many have done so, with Oregon in particular reaping a bonanza in marijuana taxes, some growers have resisted.
California has also been hit by industrial-scale illegal marijuana growing operations, with eradication left to local authorities, and in federal territory to federal officers.
In southern Oregon, the problem has got worse recently, law enforcement officials say.
Perhaps recognising that local law enforcement is stretched thin, foreign cartels began setting up hundreds of unlicensed marijuana growing operations last spring, authorities say.