Commissioners declare state of emergency for illegal marijuana operations | Local News

On Thursday, at their weekly business meeting, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to declare a local “State of Emergency” regarding the ever-increasing threat to the safety of citizens, the environment and law enforcement communities regarding the overwhelming amount of illegal cannabis (marijuana) being produced, distributed and sold in Douglas County. 

Commissioner Chris Boice read the three-page declaration in its entirety at the meeting.

The declaration cited the following conditions that have resulted in the need for the local state of emergency:

    1.    Since the passage of Ballot Measure 91 in Oregon, the illegal production and processing of cannabis has resulted in significant impacts to Douglas County related to enforcing compliance with county codes, state criminal laws, and state water laws; and jeopardizing the public health, safety and welfare of Douglas County citizens.

    2.    The impacts to Douglas County from the illegal production and processing of cannabis in the county continues to increase year after year.

    3.    The continued lack of state funding and resources to properly regulate and enforce the county codes, state criminal laws and state water laws related to the cannabis industry are continuing to cause significant impacts in Douglas County.

 “This is important work for us to do. The amount of calls and concerns that our office receives regarding illegal marijuana growing operations is staggering. When residents call in, they are scared. They are scared about where they live, afraid of what’s going on around them and in many cases, they are afraid to leave their homes. Nobody in our county should ever have to live in fear.” stated Commissioner Tim Freeman.

Freeman went on further to say that the incredible growth in illegal marijuana activity is causing problems on so many levels. First, the people that are working at these illegal grow operations are often afraid to come forward about the poor working conditions, unfair treatment and lack of pay. Certainly, there are no time cards being turned in and no withholdings being taken. There is no way of knowing if these workers are being paid.

The second issue is the significant amount of chemicals being used in the cannabis production process that are being dumped and end up flowing back into rivers and creeks is scary. Additionally, the living and environmental conditions on the illegal sites are despicable for both employees and neighboring residents, as most are filled with human waste, piles of garbage and hazardous materials that are leaching into soil and streams, as well as creating a haven for rodents and other animals to congregate, get sick and spread disease.

Third, the illegal activity is growing exponentially throughout Oregon, with known direct ties to large drug cartels in the United States and Mexico. One of the main premises and promises for legalizing marijuana with Ballot Measure 91 in Oregon, was to eliminate the cartels. But many counties, including Jackson, Josephine, Wheeler and Douglas are in worse shape than ever before. For example, this year, just in Douglas County, law enforcement has confiscated and destroyed over 300,000 cannabis plants. If you look back at the statistics 10 or 15 years ago, if they confiscated and destroyed 100,000 cannabis plants in the entire state it was a big year. 

Freeman said the last, but not least problem was the onset of the increased illegal marijuana grow operations has created a significant amount of undue stress and strain on our law enforcement, district attorney, court system and corrections resources.

By approving the state of emergency, Douglas County is requesting the assistance from the state of Oregon, through the governor and the Oregon Legislature, to provide the revenue and resources necessary to properly enforce the county codes, state criminal laws and state water laws through whatever means are available.   

 “It’s time to say, enough is enough and get a handle on this escalating situation. Not only are we prepared to do this emergency order, but as we approach next year’s budgeting cycle, as a board we are prepared to work with the budget committee to provide even more resources to DINT and the Douglas County Sheriff’s office to deal with this issue. It is that big of a problem. This is an important first step, but there is a considerable amount of work to still be done,” Freeman said.

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