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Oregon county seeks state help to curb illegal pot grows

August 23, 2018

FILE--In this May 24, 2018, file photo, a marijuana plant is shown in Springfield, Ore. A sheriff in southwest Oregon is asking for money from the state to investigate illegal marijuana operations, saying his department lacks the resources to do so. (AP Photo/Don Ryan, file)

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — A county sheriff in southwest Oregon is asking for money from the state to investigate illegal marijuana operations, saying his department lacks the resources to do so.

Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel says he needs $648,000 to help fund a team of detectives, The Daily Courier newspaper of Grants Pass reports .

The county would pitch in $350,000 to help form the team, the newspaper reported.

A bill passed by the Legislature this year assists cities and counties with costs incurred by law enforcement agencies in addressing unlawful marijuana cultivation or distribution operations.

Recreational and medical marijuana production and sales are legal in Oregon, subject to licensing and regulation. Overproduction of legal marijuana has caused prices to plummet, creating a greater incentive for illegal marijuana operations to proliferate, and for smuggling of product to other states for bigger profits.

“Josephine County has been unable to investigate or prosecute illegal marijuana operations due to lack of resources,” the sheriff told the state’s Criminal Justice Commission in a 12-page grant application submitted last week.

Daniel says illegal marijuana operations can hide as legal ones, and can go undetected without a task force dedicated to finding them.

Last month, authorities seized 82 marijuana plants, $85,000 in cash and several guns from an unlicensed grow site near the town of Merlin, the newspaper reported.

Daniel said his department has handled hundreds of marijuana-related calls in the past two years, including 423 last year and 223 calls so far this year.

County officials have identified nearly 300 marijuana grow properties with code violations, including illegal camping, sewage dumping, erosion problems, electrical issues and unpermitted structures, Daniel said.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has agreed to assign an agent to work with the proposed team, Daniel said.

U.S. Attorney Billy Williams, who oversees federal prosecutions in Oregon, said earlier this year that the state has “significant overproduction” and that he would prioritize enforcement of overproduction, interstate trafficking, organized crime and cases involving underage marijuana use and environmental damage by illicit pot farms.

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Information from Daily Courier, http://www.thedailycourier.com/

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