More calls for a National Guard deployment to crack down on Oregon's illegal pot rise as calls to send the National guard to investigate the issue increase

More calls for a National Guard deployment to crack down on Oregon's illegal pot rise as calls to se ...

Salem, Ore. On the same day last week that a southern Oregon county declared.0 emergency in response to heightened activity in illegal cannabis farms, police raided secluded properties that contained about two tons of processed marijuana and 17,500 pot plants.

The raid shows that the proliferation of industrial-scale marijuana farms has grown so rampant that Jackson County Commissioners asked Gov. Kate Brown to send the Oregon National Guard to assist, as needed, in the enforcement of marijuana laws. They also directed their request to Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek for assistance obtaining additional funds to address the problem.

During last Wednesdays search in Medford, Oregon, police discovered a vast outdoor growing operation, as well as harvested plants hanging upside down on drying racks and 3,900 pounds (1,800 kilograms) of resinous buds stored in huge bags and stacks of plastic storage containers.

The officers arrested 26 migrant workers, interviewed them and released them. According to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, a warrant was issued for the arrest of the primary suspect.

Courtney said he is so concerned about the rise in illegal marijuana farms in Jackson and neighboring Josephine counties that a national guard should be deployed. Many of the illegal growers are armied.

You cant solve it at the local level, and you can't, Im afraid, solve this at just the usual state level and have a few more state troopers down there, the Democrat added. The National Guard, theyre going to have to be deployed down there some way or another, he added.

Brown, a Democrat, is putting off deploying for now, but her office claims that she might consider it next year.

In August, the Josephine County commissioners wrote to Courtney about how migrant workers are exploited and forced to live in appalling conditions, with no toilets, no running water or bathing facilities, unrefrigerated food, and unsanitary cooking facilities; and living in tents.

The Jackson and Josephine counties are considered to be the northernmost point of the Emerald Triangle, a fabled marijuana-growing epicenter, of which Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties form the largest part.

The rise in calls for intervention from the National Guard is indicative of the drug wars of 1990s, when citizen-soldiers were used, especially in Missouri and California.

Around 200 Army personnel, National Guardsmen, and federal agents raided clandestine pot farms in rugged terrain in Californias Humboldt County back in the day. Residents responded with protests.

Both Oregon and California in recent years legalized the cultivation, processing, and sale of marijuana, so long as those involved enter the regulated systems in each state and follow the rules. While many have done so, with Oregon in particular seeing a huge boost in marijuana taxes, some growers have resisted.

California has also been hit by industrial-scale illegal marijuana cultivation operations, with eradication left to local authorities, and in federal territory, to federal authorities.

According to law enforcement officials, the problem in southern Oregon has only gotten worse in recent months.

Foreign cartels, perhaps because they realized that local law enforcement is stretched thin, began running hundreds of unlicensed marijuana growing operations last spring, according to authorities.

Sheriff Dave Daniel of Josephine County believes the cartel masterminds anticipate losing a few growing operations, but that the sheer number of them means many will remain untouched until the marijuana is harvested and sold on the black market outside of Oregon.

In California, the growing operations are expanding beyond the Emerald Triangle. 373,000 plants were found in the most recent illegal marijuana bust in Los Angeles County history, which would have cost the city $1 billion on the street.

131 people were arrested and more than 33,000 pounds (14,969 kilograms) of marijuana plants wereseized during the raid in the Antelope Valley of Southern Californias high desert. And that was only a fraction of the illicit growing operations in the region, according to authorities.

Officials said the widespread problem has increased tremendously during the coronavirus epidemic. Armed cartel members run massive illegal growing operations, some spanning dozens of greenhouses, that are putting Californias legal marijuana market at risk.

Amid a historic drought in the West, illegal growers are taking water, depriving legal users, including farmers and homeowners, of the increasingly precious resource.

In Oregon, the Illinois Valley Soil and Water Conservation District in Josephine County has recently held town halls on the topic.

Christopher Hall, the conservation districts community organizer, said, The people of the Illinois Valley are experiencing an existential threat for the first time in local history.

Asked if Brown was contemplating sending the Oregon National Guard, her spokeswoman, Elizabeth Merah, stated that the OR Military Department already has a full-time National guard service member in each of three law enforcement teams in southern Oregon.

She said the situation will be reexamined next year.

As the current growing season draws to a close, we are not considering spending additional resources this year, Merah said in an email. The governor remains concerned about the situation and will continue to monitor what resources might be needed for the 2022 growing season, said the governor.

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Juliet Williams, a writer for the Associated Press in San Francisco, contributed to this report.

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