Marijuana growers intent on flouting Oregon’s legal recreational cannabis rules for higher profits are less likely to get away with it thanks to state and federal grants to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. That’s good news for Oregon, which is under federal pressure to stop the flow of black-market marijuana into other states, and for the majority of licensed growers doing things by the book while facing stiff competition.
An existing $250,000, three-year federal grant pays for two sheriff’s deputies assigned to marijuana enforcement. The Oregon Legislature awarded the county an additional $573,000 to pay for three detectives, a crime analyst and a half-time prosecutor.
They have plenty of work to do. Already this summer, deputies seized more than 4,000 plants from two illegal grow sites. Armed with the grant funding, Sheriff Nate Sickler says his deputies will focus on licensed growers producing more than allowed under state recreational and medical rules, as well as illegal grows that affect water agencies.
Establishing a functioning market for legal marijuana was never going to be easy — especially given the reality that some Oregon cannabis ostensibly grown under the long-established medical marijuana program already was being illegally diverted to states where the drug is still against the law. That reality, plus the decision by state regulators to allow out-of-state investors into the market, has resulted in an oversupply of legal marijuana and plummeting prices, creating even more incentive for growers to turn to the black market.
More aggressive enforcement should help restore some order to the chaos.