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Emergency funding request made to combat illegal marijuana cultivation in Jackson County

Oregon State Police
Marijuana seized in by the Oregon State Police at a facility in White City, OR. It's one of a string of cannabis busts that took place in recent months.

Officials in Southern Oregon are trying to get more state funding to combat the explosion of illegal marijuana cultivation over the past year.

$7.5 million is the price tag of a new emergency request being made by state Senator Jeff Golden, D-Ashland. His request to the state would fund additional law enforcement, staff for the water master’s office and code enforcement officers.

Golden says the criminal activity happening at marijuana farms in Jackson and Josephine Counties warrants this scale of funding.

“I watched Reefer Madness, too. and know about the history of hysteria being whipped up around drugs, and especially marijuana. I don’t think that’s what we’ve got here,” he says.

The concerns of Golden and others in law enforcement in the Rogue Valley include human trafficking at cannabis operations, water theft, environmental degradation and the general safety of residents.

On Nov. 18th the Oregon State Police and local law enforcement agencies seized approximately 500,000 lbs. of marijuana at an industrial facility in White City, OR. It’s just the latest example of a string of busts in Southern Oregon this fall after the legislature’s passage of HB 3000 in the 2021 session, which increased law enforcement resources to combat unlicensed marijuana growing operations.

According to Golden, the funding and resources from that law are already seen as inadequate to address the scale of illegal marijuana. He says the problem can’t wait until the legislature meets next.

“Our concern is that if we go into session as we will in February, and make this allocation, it’s well into summer or fall before people are ready to hit the ground. So that’s the urgency,” he says.

This request follows a similar state of emergency and request for help announced by the Jackson County commissioners, as well as a federal request this month from Republican Congressmember Cliff Bentz for personnel from the FBI and DEA to be deployed to Jackson, Josephine, Douglas and Klamath counties.

Erik Neumann is the interim news director at Jefferson Public Radio. 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.