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Oregon Lawmakers Take On State’s Illicit Pot Operations

The Oregon legislature has two proposals that target illicit cannabis operations in its southern region.

Both the state Senate and House have recently approved legislation that “would increase scrutiny of legal cannabis licenses and water deliveries,” according to the Capital Press in Oregon.

Oregon voters approved a 2014 measure that allowed adults to use recreational pot. But the underground operation has continued, and some officials describe it as a crisis.

One bill that was unanimously approved by the state House on Monday would establish new “record-keeping requirements [that] would be imposed on water sellers and haulers,” the report said.

The bill, HB 4061, would “require water sales and delivery records to be available upon request, which would make it easier for law enforcement personnel to investigate suspicious activity.

SB 1564 was the other bill that passed easily via a vote on the floor in state Senate. The bill allows counties across Oregon to cancel hemp licenses.

Originally, the bill “would have imposed a two-year moratorium on new hemp licenses statewide and allowed the Oregon Department of Agriculture to restrict licenses based on supply and demand for the crop,” according to the Capital Press, but the legislation was tweaked in order to give counties the discretion.

That’s because the illicit cannabis crisis is largely concentrated in the southern Oregon counties of Jackson and Josephine. 

There have been many illegal marijuana operations that are disguised to be hemp farms, and law enforcement has become increasingly difficult for the county government. 

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners declared an emergency in October and requested additional state resources to address the issue, such as the deployment of National Guard troops.

“Since recreational marijuana was legalized by the voters of Oregon in the November 2014 general election, the illegal and unlawful production of marijuana in our county has overwhelmed the ability of our county and state regulators to enforce relevant laws in our community,” Jackson County Commissioner Rick Dyer said at the time.

One month later, the Oregon State Police confiscated almost 500,000 pounds cannabis in a raid that took place over two days at an illegal operation in Jackson County.

The state police said that more than “100 individuals were initially detained, identified, interviewed, and released, while several of the individuals were migrant workers living on-site in subpar living conditions without running water.”

Similar findings were made in October in Klamath County which is adjacent to Jackson County. 

The operation there was discovered to be inside a 27,000 square foot shed, which local reports said was “filled with marijuana in various stages of processing: drying in giant strands that stretched from the roof to the floor, buds pruned and stuffed into 40-pound bags, hundreds of those bags stacked against a wall and years of discarded marijuana waste in piles ready for disposal.”

Oregon county and state officials have linked illicit cannabis operations with the Mexican cartel.

Dyer claimed in November, that busts had exposed human trafficking, forced labour and other labor conditions. These illicit activities are a humanitarian issue as well as a drug problem.

“This is cartel activity,” Dyer said at the time. “A human rights crisis is what we are seeing going on at these grows.”

“It’s harder to ignore when it’s a regional declaration of an emergency,” he added. “And the more of a united front we present it will make it harder to ignore. It is a regional problem, and it could be a regional solution.”