An illegal cannabis grow in Oregon was recently raided, and officers took everything but left four cannabis plants behind—which is the legal maximum that one person can cultivate at home.
The Josephine Marijuana Enforcement Team (JMET) worked with Josephine County Code Enforcement to raid the grow on Aug. 4 in Selma, located in the southwestern region of Oregon. In addition to seizing over 140 plants, 200 pounds of illegal cannabis were also seized and destroyed.
According to the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office, the size of the grow wasn’t a big deal. “Although the size of this grow operation was not large in comparison to others we have seen this year, it was well beyond the legal limit of four plants allowed per Oregon State Law,” the department wrote in a Marijuana Search Warrant document. Just a few days before this raid occurred, JMET conducted four other search warrants and found over 12,000 plants, and over 4,535 kilograms of processed cannabis.
However the report did briefly address why they left four plants behind. “JMET always leaves four legal marijuana plants when we dismantle each grow operation,” the report continued.
One person was arrested on site of the most recent raid, a 51-year-old man charged with unlawful manufacturing and possession of cannabis. Due to other violations on site, including “multiple electrical and solid waste code violations,” this could also result in “civil forfeiture of the property.” It was not specified who would care for the four remaining cannabis plants while the arrested individual is absent.
According to NORML, cultivating four to eight plants in Oregon is considered a misdemeanor, with the possibility of six months jail time and a fine of up to $2,500. Cultivation of more than eight plants is a felony, which could lead to up to 5 years in prison and up to $125,000 in fines.
In October 2021, the Jackson County Board of Supervisors called a State of Emergency regarding the influx of illegal cultivation, and petitioned Gov. Kate Brown for assistance. “Since recreational marijuana was legalized by the voters of Oregon in the November 2014 general election, the illegal and unlawful production of marijuana in our county has overwhelmed the ability of our county and state regulators to enforce relevant laws in our community,” said Jackson County Commissioner Rick Dyer.
Gov. Brown’s spokesperson, Charles Boyle, echoed the support of the governor regarding the need for assistance. “The message is clear—Oregon is not open for business to illegal cannabis grows,” said Boyle. “These are criminal enterprises that deplete water resources while our state is in drought, hold their workforce in inhumane conditions and severely harm our legal cannabis marketplace.”
In December 2021, Gov. Brown passed Senate Bill 893, which provided $25 million to help fund state law enforcement and local community organizations fight against illegal cultivation. Sen. Jeff Golden, who supported the measure, explained the harms of illegal cannabis cultivation both for the environment, as well as legal growers. “Illegal cannabis operations in southern Oregon have been using our limited water supply, abusing local workers, threatening neighbors and negatively impacting businesses run by legal marijuana growers,” Golden said last year.
Oregon has also become home to legislation that will soon allow legal psilocybin therapy programs. The first set of rules will take effect in January 2023, with the rest being finalized by Dec. 31, 2023. However, a few regions of Oregon, such as Linn County, have approved or are considering banning psilocybin treatment centers. Individuals such as Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist expressed concerns of potential harm. “My fear is of young people taking mushrooms and going out and doing things that may cost them their life,” Nyquist said. “I just think it’s appropriate to refer this measure to the voters in Linn County and allow them to have a say in this, particularly because they did not vote to support this measure in the first place.”
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