Awash in illegal marijuana, Oregon looks at toughening laws

Dec 7, 2022, 9:45 PM | Updated: Dec 8, 2022, 1:14 pm
FILE - Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel stands amid the debris of plastic hoop houses destroyed...

FILE - Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel stands amid the debris of plastic hoop houses destroyed by law enforcement, used to grow cannabis illegally, near Selma, Ore., June 16, 2021. In 2014, Oregon voters approved a ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana after being told it would eliminate problems caused by the "uncontrolled manufacture" of the drug. Illegal production of marijuana has exploded instead. Oregon lawmakers are now looking at toughening laws against the outlaw growers. (Shaun Hall/Grants Pass Daily Courier via AP, File)

(Shaun Hall/Grants Pass Daily Courier via AP, File)

              FILE - This aerial file photo provided by the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office shows an illegal marijuana grow in Alfalfa, Ore., on Sept. 2, 2021. In 2014, Oregon voters approved a ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana after being told it would eliminate problems caused by the "uncontrolled manufacture" of the drug. Illegal production of marijuana has exploded instead. Oregon lawmakers are now looking at toughening laws against the outlaw growers. (Deschutes County Sheriff via AP, File)
            
              FILE - Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel stands amid the debris of plastic hoop houses destroyed by law enforcement, used to grow cannabis illegally, near Selma, Ore., June 16, 2021. In 2014, Oregon voters approved a ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana after being told it would eliminate problems caused by the "uncontrolled manufacture" of the drug. Illegal production of marijuana has exploded instead. Oregon lawmakers are now looking at toughening laws against the outlaw growers. (Shaun Hall/Grants Pass Daily Courier via AP, File)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — In 2014, Oregon voters approved a ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana after being told it would eliminate problems caused by “uncontrolled manufacture” of the drug. Illegal production of marijuana has instead exploded.

Oregon lawmakers, who have heard complaints from police, legal growers and others, are now looking at toughening laws against the outlaw growers. Oregon, one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, can be an object lesson for other states, including Maryland and Missouri, where voters legalized weed on Nov. 8. That raised the number of states that have approved marijuana’s recreational use to 21.

So far this year, police have seized over 105 tons (95 metric tons) of illegally grown marijuana in Oregon, according to the Oregon-Idaho High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force. That’s up from at least 9 tons (8 metric tons) in 2019.

The indoor and outdoor grows use massive amounts of water in drought-stricken areas, contaminate the environment and employ migrant laborers who live in squalid conditions.

A draft bill for Oregon’s 2023 legislative session that begins Jan. 17 would double the maximum prison sentence and fine — to 10 years in prison and $250,000 — for unlawful manufacture involving more than 100 plants and possession in excess of 32 times the legal limits. Personal possession limits in Oregon are 2 ounces (57 grams) of marijuana in a public place and 8 ounces (227 grams) in a home.

The measure also holds people accountable for environmental damage and prohibits use of water at locations not licensed for growing marijuana. Addressing immigrant labor, the draft bill makes it a crime for managers of an illegal grow site to confiscate a passport or immigration document, to threaten to report a person to a government agency for arrest or deportation, or withhold wages without lawful justification.

Some parts of Oregon have seen record seizures as police raid plantation after plantation. Police say foreign criminal gangs have become involved, from Mexico, Russia, China and other countries.

A single raid in October yielded 76,930 pounds (35,000 kilograms) of marijuana in Yamhill County, southwest of Portland, the largest pot bust on record in a county more renowned for its pinot noir wine.

“Investigators found the entire property had been converted to facilitate the growth, storage, processing, and packaging of marijuana to be shipped or transported out of the area,” the sheriff’s office said.

The street retail value of the marijuana in Oregon would be $76 million while on the East Coast it would be worth $269 million, the sheriff’s office said.

Receipts at the property in rural Newberg, Oregon, showed wire transfers involving large amounts of money going from Oregon to the state of Michoacán in Mexico.

On Oct. 25, Oregon State Police, including SWAT officers, raided a property in southern Oregon’s Jackson County that had pot growing in greenhouses. They officers destroyed about 1,000 pounds (450 kilos) of illegal, processed marijuana and found the carcass of a black bear, along with firearms and three stolen vehicles.

The amount of illegal marijuana that law enforcement officers manage to intercept each year in Oregon is believed to be dwarfed by the uncounted tons that are smuggled out of state and sold for high profits.

The 2014 Oregon voters’ pamphlet said legalization of recreational marijuana would “eliminate the problems caused by the prohibition and uncontrolled manufacture, delivery, and possession of marijuana within this state.”

Anthony Johnson, who was the chief petitioner for Ballot Measure 91, acknowledged that legalization — and the creation of a regulated industry from farm to customer — has not stemmed the illegal grows.

With recreational marijuana still being illegal federally as well as in many other states, Johnson said the problem won’t go away because of the high profit margin from selling on the black market in those states.

“I think that this is going to remain a problem until the federal government legalizes across the nation,” Johnson said in an interview on Tuesday.

He said, though, that authorities should act against the illegal growers in Oregon.

“Certainly, when unregulated grows are stealing water or using chemicals that shouldn’t be polluting our land, then it’s expected that the state and/or federal government is going to move in to enforce state law.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Community organizer Chase Madkins poses for a portrait in a Black-owned coffee shop in Memphis, Ten...
Associated Press

In Tyre Nichols’ neighborhood, Black residents fear police

MEMPHIS (AP) — In a terrible way, the death of Tyre Nichols brings vindication to members of the Black community in Memphis who live in terror of police. Often, before, people didn’t believe them when told how bad it is. The fatal beating of Nichols, 29, by five police officers tells the story many residents […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Teenage girl killed by shark while jet skiing in Australia

PERTH, Australia (AP) — A teenage girl was killed in a suspected shark attack in the Western Australian city of Perth after she jumped from her jet ski, police said Saturday. The 16-year-old was pulled from the Swan River with critical injuries. Emergency personnel provided medical assistance to her at the scene but she died, […]
1 day ago
Jessica Day-Weaver holds a ceramic hand print of her daughter, Anastasia, at her home, Thursday, Fe...
Associated Press

‘Died suddenly’ posts twist tragedies to push vaccine lies

Results from 6-year-old Anastasia Weaver’s autopsy may take weeks. But online anti-vaccine activists needed only hours after her funeral this week to baselessly blame the COVID-19 vaccine. A prolific Twitter account posted Anastasia’s name and smiling dance portrait in a tweet with a syringe emoji. A Facebook user messaged her mother, Jessica Day-Weaver, to call […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

India, France, UAE to work on climate change, biodiversity

NEW DELHI (AP) — India, France and the United Arab Emirates on Saturday agreed on a trilateral initiative to undertake energy projects with a focus on solar and nuclear sources, fight climate change and protect biodiversity, particularly in the Indian Ocean region. The countries will organize trilateral events in the framework of the Indian presidency […]
1 day ago
FILE - Mark Splonskowski assembles electronic poll book kits that voters will uses to sign in at po...
Associated Press

Electronic pollbook security raises concerns going into 2024

ATLANTA (AP) — They were blamed for long lines in Los Angeles during California’s 2020 presidential primary, triggered check-in delays in Columbus, Ohio, a few months later and were at the center of former President Donald Trump’s call for supporters to protest in Detroit during last November’s midterms. High-profile problems involving electronic pollbooks have opened […]
1 day ago
FILE - This Dec. 21, 2022, image provided by Eisai in January 2023 shows vials and packaging for th...
Associated Press

Why a new Alzheimer’s drug is having a slow US debut

The first drug to show that it slows Alzheimer’s is on sale, but treatment for most patients is still several months away. Two big factors behind the slow debut, experts say, are scant insurance coverage and a long setup time needed by many health systems. Patients who surmount those challenges will step to the head […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Awash in illegal marijuana, Oregon looks at toughening laws