What Would You Do with the 500,000 Pounds of Marijuana That the Oregon Police Just Confiscated?
We are at a time where legalized marijuana sales are increasing nationally. However, problems with illegal marijuana continue to reach new heights in the northwestern state of Oregon. Last week, the state police in Oregon confiscated 500,000 pounds of illegal marijuana during a burst. The burst took place just outside Medford, Oregon, and the illegal marijuana seized is estimated to have a street value of $500 million.
The police claimed to have found more than 100 employees which included undocumented immigrants working in poor conditions. The Oregon State Police Southwest Region (OSP) was able to detain, interview, identify, and then later release these immigrants working on the site.
As the investigation continued, Drug enforcement investigators discovered that the ring leaders stole water from private sources to irrigate the illegal cannabis farms in the warehouse. During the bust, the police claimed that officers from local law enforcement agencies, OSP, and Drug Enforcement Administration seized the large cache of cannabis and a gun in the course of the two-day raid.
In a news release, OSP further asserted that the case is still very much open and investigation will continue for several weeks. Hence, more revelations are still expected from the investigation as the OSP keeps the general public updated.
Cannabis Laws in Oregon
Cannabis was officially legalized by the state of Oregon in 2014 via a ballot initiative known as Measure 91. This initiative allows for the medicinal and recreational sale of cannabis by licensed dispensaries to citizens who are 21 years of age and above.
Oregon’s Liquor Control Commission oversees the licensing and sale of medical and recreational cannabis businesses. The Oregon cannabis law explicitly prohibits the production of marijuana without proper licensing.
The state of Oregon established a specific limit for the purchase of marijuana products for recreational use across the state. The law also limited the use of legal cannabis in public settings such as lobbies, hallways, parks, and so on.
Cannabis recommended by a licensed doctor or physician has some distinct regulations compared to recreational cannabis. Medical marijuana unlike recreational cannabis can be purchased by patients 18 years and above with proof of medical condition.
The qualifying medical conditions under the Oregon cannabis law include cancer, HIV or AIDS, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), severe pain, severe nausea, seizures, persistent muscle spasms, and so on.
The Bigger Picture
Last week’s burst in Oregon is part of a general ongoing clampdown on illegal cannabis production in California. Just recently, a burst in the outskirts of Los Angeles County California saw authorities confiscate $1 billion worth of illegal cannabis.
This burst opened up a vast extent of California’s underground cannabis market giving an insight into the illegal cannabis market. The burst also exposed various challenges faced by officials in reigning in illegal operators. However, while the Los Angeles burst proved to be a huge step in the right direction, industry experts doubt the cannabis illegal market will dissipate any time soon.
Presently, the illicit cannabis market continues to loom over the entire California legal cannabis market. Businesses struggle to compete with illegal farmers who evade state and local taxes including regulatory red tapes. Furthermore, these illegal farmers and retailers are also able to peddle their products at lower prices making competition fierce for legal cannabis growers.
Black market growth
Recreational use of cannabis was legalized by voters in Oregon during the 2014 ballot. However, since the legalization, bootleg cannabis farmers fronting as legal cannabis growers have moved to rural areas. These bootleg farmers now grow and ship cannabis outside the state to earn a high-profit margin and avoid paying taxes.
In September, the two-state bodies responsible for regulating cannabis made some interesting findings. They reported that more than half of the registered cannabis farmers were discovered to be growing cannabis illegally. This illegal cannabis in fact has THC levels higher than the federally authorized maximums of 0.3%.
According to reports, about one-quarter of registered cannabis farms tried to block Oregon’s regulators from having access to the farms. Even when access is granted, police have constantly found unlicensed guns during checks and inspections on these farms.
Getting out of control
Nathan Sickler, Jackson County Sheriff while speaking before a legislative committee in Salem made an interesting claim. He said crime in the county has gone out of control. He asserted that illegal cannabis production has contributed to an increase in burglaries, violent crimes, and even sex offenses in the county. Sickler testified saying this increase in crime has now become an issue they have to deal with every day.
In fact, last week’s burst came just less than two months after local commissioners from Josephine and Jackson counties delivered emergency declarations. Both counties asked lawmakers and Gov. Kate Brown for additional funding to clamp down on illegal marijuana farms.
Eventually, Josephine county issued an official state of emergency on Oct. 24, and on the same day, drug enforcement agencies carried out another burst. An illegal farm was discovered with more than 17,000 cannabis plants and 4,000 pounds of processed marijuana.
Lack of Resources
Law enforcement officials across California(Oregon inclusive) have claimed they don’t have adequate resources and personnel to crack down on illegal farms. And this is a major limiting factor towards eradicating illegal cannabis farming in the state of California.
Consequently, many of the severe cannabis-related penalties which served to curb illegal farmers have been nullified in 2016. The nullification was a result of the approved proposition 64 which saw the legalization of cannabis for adult use.
Due to the lack of severe penalties or consequences, the illegal farming network continues to grow in plain sight. This illegal farming network is scattered across the High Desert in Southern California as displayed in both ground and aerial surveillance. However, even with these current developments, local law enforcement agencies promise they won’t stop giving their all in the fight against illicit cannabis farming.
No doubt the crackdown against illegal cannabis farming will continue in Oregon and the entirety of California. As a result, you should be ready to hear more news about the bursting and raiding of illegal farms across California. Certainly, a lot of legal cannabis farmers will benefit from the increasing efforts to eradicate illegal farms across California.
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