The illicit cannabis market in Southern Oregon continues. So, too, does the eradication effort by law enforcement officials.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office announced Oct. 12 that Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team (IMET) detectives served a search warrant last week at three neighboring properties in rural Rogue River, where they discovered 113 cannabis greenhouses. The illicit operation included roughly 8,675 plants, 7,155 pounds of processed cannabis and $46,000 in cash.
Assisting in serving in the warrant were sheriff’s deputies, the Oregon State Police Southwest Region Drug Enforcement team, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Medford.
“This case was the result of a months-long investigation of a black-market marijuana growing and processing operation,” according to a press release from the sheriff’s office. “Detectives identified the primary suspects and investigations are ongoing. The three separate properties are owned by different individuals.”
Jackson County code enforcement officials issued $1.25 million in fines to the property owners, which, in addition to the unpermitted greenhouse structures, included citations for unpermitted electrical and mechanical installations, unpermitted accessory structures, failing to obtain cannabis land use approval, camping within a cannabis grow site, and solid waste, according to the release.
The $1.25 million in fines also includes citations stemming from last year, for similar violations that the property owner failed to correct, according to the release.
The bust comes roughly a year after state officials discovered more than half of registered hemp fields tested in Southern Oregon were actually growing THC-rich cannabis, and after Jackson County officials asked the state for more than $7 million in funding to combat illicit operations in the region.
While serving the search warrant last week in Rogue River, law enforcement officials detained, interviewed and released 17 workers and one child. In addition, HSI Medford agents identified and interviewed potential victims of forced labor trafficking, according to the release.
Unete Oregon, a center for farmworker advocacy, responded to assist the workers and provide support services through grant funding that helps the organization address the “poor treatment of migrant workers being victimized at illegal marijuana grows,” according to the release.
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