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Oregon Now Requires Cannabis Employers, Employees To Report Suspected Human Trafficking

Oregon’s cannabis industry operators must now report to the state any instances of suspected human trafficking. If they don’t, their workers could face criminal consequences. 

Per the language of the order from the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, “Employees or workers at a marijuana licensed premises must report to a law enforcement agency or the OLCC if the employee or worker has a reasonable belief that sex trafficking or other human trafficking is occurring at the premises. Employees or workers must also report if they have a reasonable belief that a minor is employed or contracted at the premises in a manner that violates OLCC rules.”

It is a category 2 violation that cannabis workers must not report suspected instances of human trafficking, however sour it may sound. Oregon law allows for maximum punishments of up to 30 days imprisonment and/or under $5,000 fines.

As a person who has spent the last decade or so around cannabis grows as an employee, journalist, and visitor it seemed odd to me to specifically include employees in the language of the order because any employee of a cannabis grow is typically—though not always—in a remote location far away from fast police response times or sometimes even working phones.

Bryant Haley, OLCC asked me if workers who fail to report this kind of information would face fines and jail time.

“Likely not,” Haley said. “It would be the egregiousness of every case. Did the individual engage in any illegal activity? That’s a different situation. Did they deliberately turn a blindeye to this? That’s a different situation.”

According to Haley, the OLCC received the directive to enact this order from legislation passed at the state level enacted to address rampant labor and sex trafficking on southern Oregon marijuana farms—A lot of people sleeping in greenhouses and living in deplorable conditions, a lot of “hemp farms” that were just cannabis farms using forced labor, and a big enough problem to cause the state legislature to direct the OLCC to require this reporting from its license holders. 

According to Mark Pettinger, another OLCC spokesperson, this essentially turns anyone that works in the cannabis industry into a “mandatory reporter.” It would come down to the police to actually pursue jail time for employees; the OLCC does not have that ability. However, the OLCC is able to impose fines. 

When asked if the OLCC planned to impose fines on employees who worked for cannabis operators found to be involved in trafficking, specifically employees who neglected to report such crimes, Haley was not able to give me a firm answer because such a case has not happened yet, but he said their office’s main directive is taking action against the permit holder.

However, I believe that human trafficking in cannabis is a serious problem and it would be negligent not to include this attempt at combating it using the limited power I do have.

Contact the U.S. Department of Homeland Security if you suspect that you have been involved with human trafficking.

Oregon law now requires that anyone who works for, or is the owner of, a cannabis company in Oregon report any suspected child labor or human trafficking using this online tool.