Oregon State Police seized roughly 500,000 pounds of cannabis as part of a sweeping bust last week, the latest illicit grow operation to uncovered by authorities in the southern part of the state.
The state police said that its Drug Enforcement Section for the southwest region of Oregon served a search warrant last Thursday in the community of White City, which is located in Jackson County.
The location targeted by the warrant “consisted of five industrial-sized warehouses zoned for commercial use,” the state police said.
“Over 100 individuals were initially detained, identified, interviewed and released. Several of the individuals were migrant workers living on-site in subpar living conditions without running water,” the organization explained in a Facebook post published over the weekend.
The operation spanned more than two days, over the course of which “an epic amount of illegal, processed marijuana and a firearm were seized.”
“The DES Team’s conservative estimation on the amount of processed marijuana seized was approximately 500,000 lbs., which depending on where it would be exported to, has a conservative street value of somewhere around $500 million,” the state police said, adding that it remains “a very involved investigation and will be ongoing for several weeks,” and that it will release “more information when available.”
Such raids have become a common occurrence in Jackson County, where local officials last month declared a state of emergency over the illicit cannabis cultivation.
Oregon voters passed a ballot measure in 2014 legalizing recreational cannabis use for adults and establishing the framework for a regulated cannabis market, but unregulated production endures, particularly in the southern part of the state.
Jackson County law enforcement officials served another search warrant last month that resulted in the destruction of 17,522 cannabis plants and about 3,900 pounds of harvested marijuana. And a separate bust last month in the southern Oregon county of Klamath led to an enormous haul in a 27,000-square-foot potato shed.
The Herald and News newspaper reported at the time that the large potato shed was “filled with marijuana in various stages of processing: drying in giant strands that stretched from the roof to the floor, buds pruned and stuffed into 40-pound bags, hundreds of those bags stacked against a wall and years of discarded marijuana waste in piles ready for disposal.”
The illicit activity has prompted Jackson County officials to call for help.
In a letter to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and other legislative leaders, Jackson County’s board of commissioners lobbied for assistance to law enforcement officials and regulators who they said were beleaguered by the amount of illicit marijuana activity.
The commissioners called the unregulated cultivation an “imminent threat to the public health and safety of our citizens from the illegal production of cannabis in our county.”
“Jackson County strongly requests your assistance to address this emergency,” the commissioners wrote in the letter.
One of the commissioners, Rick Dyer, said at a news conference last month that county law enforcement had reported a “59 percent increase in calls for service associated with the marijuana industry, including burglary, theft, assault, robbery and nuisance crimes.”
The commissioners requested additional funds and even the deployment of National Guard troops to combat the illicit activity. The Oregon State Police said that last week’s 500,000 pound bust in White City “was assisted by the Josephine Marijuana Enforcement Team (JMET) of Josephine County, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Medford Office, the Basin Interagency Narcotics Team (BINET) of Klamath County, the Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team (IMET) of the Medford Police Department-Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and Jackson County Fire District No. 3.”