Oregon cartel morphs pot cultivation strategy

Salem, Oregon (AP) β€” A foreign drug cartel that set up an illegal outdoor marijuana farm in Oregon last year is adapting as pressure begins to rise, law enforcement officials said Thursday.

New challenges emerge when the task force created by Congress meets for the first time to understand how to combat cannabis-related issues that threaten the legally regulated recreational marijuana industry in Oregon.

The Task Force on Cannabis-Derived Toxic and Illegal Cannabis Production also includes funding and command structures to enable law enforcement agencies to combat illegal cannabis production, as well as cartel-funded pot-farm worker trafficking. You are responsible for encouraging changes in state law to deal with water theft. Among other issues, cannabis genetic engineering regulations.

“It started with a simple request for help and changed to” Oh, my goodness, there’s a lot to deal with. ” So I think we need to take one at a time, “said Lily Morgan, a Republican in the southern town of Grants Pass, when the Task Force met via videolink. ..

One of the biggest problems is the recent surge in illegal industrial scale marijuana farms.

Early 2021, Hundreds of greenhouses Harvesting began in Josephine and Jackson counties in southern Oregon. Some were in the city limits, others were bravely established along the highway or hidden in distant valleys.

According to authorities, they are not licensed by the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission and are funded by foreign criminal cartels from Latin America, Europe and Asia. There were more pot farms than an overwhelmed law enforcement officer could defeat. Illegal cultivation activities indoors have been done indoors for a long time, but now criminal organizations are moving further in that direction and can grow all year round, says Task Force members. I did.

“We are starting to hear about Josephine County. Many operations are moving indoors,” said Sergeant Oregon Police. Tyler Bechtel. “It’s very difficult to see from the street, see from the sky, and smell. It’s not a seasonal issue when traveling indoors. It’s a year-round issue.”

However, Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel has never heard of cartels operating in the county moving to indoor cultivation, instead establishing more small-scale cultivation projects. He said he was lowering the cartel’s name.

“They seem to be diversifying their businesses and expanding into many small growths to avoid attention,” Daniel said in an email to the Associated Press. “We were expecting this change because we were primarily focused on big growth and now on small growth. It’s a good business move for them and slows us down. prize.”

According to Bechtel, state police have identified dozens of ethnic-based drug trafficking organizations, each operating in 5 to 30 marijuana growing areas.

Given an idea of ​​the scope of the matter, the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission has seized 551,000 marijuana plants in Jackson County, Josephine County and Deschutes County, Central Oregon from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. Say it. Of illegal crops. Authorities also seized nearly $ 3.4 million in cash in the assault.

“Despite the legitimate means of buying and selling marijuana within Oregon, the illegal marijuana market has led to the diversion of marijuana to other states, the sale of marijuana to underage buyers, the private sector, and the state. , And continues to raise public safety concerns, including the illegal cultivation of marijuana in the federal property, and strengthening organized criminal activity, ”, Commission Said in the report..

The report investigated the results after spending millions of dollars on three counties to address the increase in illegal marijuana cultivation and distribution activity in Oregon. The Commission said it could not determine the effectiveness of the grant program because “the illegal marijuana market is a particularly ambiguous sector to evaluate.”

The Task Force must provide its findings to the Interim Committee of Parliament by 31 December 2022.

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