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Rep. Bentz talks illegal marijuana in Southern Oregon visit

Erik Neumann
Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler, Rep. Cliff Bentz and members of his legislative staff discussed illegal cannabis operations in the Rogue Valley on Wednesday.

Efforts to clamp down on illegal marijuana cultivation in Southern Oregon could get attention from the federal government with the help of Congressmember Cliff Bentz.

During a visit to the Rogue Valley this week, Bentz, the Republican representative for District 2, met with local law enforcement and legislators. They’re trying to create a plan to deter future illegal marijuana farming, which authorities says is associated with violence, intimidation and even murder in the area.

The past summer saw explosive growth of illegal marijuana operations in Southern Oregon, at times being disguised as legal hemp. In response to understaffed agencies from local water authorities to agricultural inspectors to law enforcement, Bentz recently requested support from U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.

“I’ve been asking the federal government to go get us some help in the form of people to assist in shutting down these illegal grows,” Bentz said.

He has requested the AG’s office to send teams of up to 20 people from the FBI or DEA to Jackson, Josephine, Douglas and Klamath counties. His office has not yet received a response.

“I don’t think anyone has delusions that we’re going to completely irradicate this in one year,” said Jackson County Commissioner Rick Dyer. “We’re not going to be able to bust every illegal grow that’s out there. But to create that deterrent to make it uncomfortable, to make it unprofitable.”

During the meeting on Wednesday in Medford, Bentz asked the Jackson County sheriff, commissioners and legislators for more details on the murky cannabis situation in order to make a compelling case to officials in D.C.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.