Illegal marijuana seized in Oregon on November 18, 2021. A major seizure of 500,000 pounds of illegal cannabis worth $500,000 happened just days ago near us. In addition, many employees were found to be illegal immigrants living in poor conditions. We believe this epic raid and seizure in White City, Oregon, is of interest to our readers and clients, so here we share the story.
State troopers seize half a million pounds of illegal marijuana in southern Oregon
(Medford, Ore.) Troopers with the Oregon State Police seized roughly 500,000 pounds of processed marijuana in the latest large-scale bust in southern Oregon, which has seen a number of high-profile raids on illegal marijuana farms recently.
Troopers served a warrant on a property in the 1300 block of Antelope Road in White City, north of Medford, on Thursday. The marijuana processing facility consisted of five industrial-sized warehouses that were zoned for commercial use, state police said in a statement.
Over the course of two days, officers seized roughly 500,000 pounds of processed marijuana, estimated to be worth $500 million by the Oregon State Police, along with a firearm.
More than 100 people were detained, interviewed and released, officials said. Some of those questioned were migrant workers living in “subpar” conditions with no running water, officials said.
“This is a very involved investigation and will be ongoing for several weeks,” state police said in a news release.
The seizure comes as the latest in a string of similar law enforcement actions in southern Oregon, including the raid of a 27,000 square foot potato shed in Klamath Falls earlier this year, which yielded an estimated $100 million in processed marijuana, according to authorities.
Oregon State Police seize illegal marijuana valued at $500 million
At a time when legalized marijuana sales are rising nationally, state police in Oregon last week seized 500,000 pounds of illegal marijuana in a bust outside Medford, Oregon, that they estimated had a street value of $500 million, police said.
The Oregon State Police Southwest Region (OSP) Drug Enforcement Section team served a search warrant Thursday at five industrial-sized warehouses in White City, where illegal marijuana was seized in Oregon, police said.
In last week’s bust, police said that OSP, Drug Enforcement Administration and officers from local law enforcement agencies seized the large cache of marijuana and a gun over two days.
“This is a very involved investigation and will be ongoing for several weeks,” OSP said in a news release.
OSP said investigators found that several of the individuals at the warehouses — who were initially detained, identified, interviewed and released — were migrant workers living on site. Police called the living conditions “subpar” and noted they lacked running water.
The seizure comes at a time when legalized marijuana is flourishing.
Sales hit $20 billion in 2020, are on pace to top $26 billion this year, and are projected to leapfrog to $45.9 billion in 2025, according to data from Marijuana Business Daily that were shared at the MJBizCon, the industry’s annual trade show.
The nearly $46 billion in sales would make the cannabis industry larger than the craft beer industry, said Chris Walsh, chief executive officer and president of MJBizDaily.
From the Oregon State Police Facebook Page
OSP SWR Drug Enforcement Section Team seized an epic amount of illegal marijuana during search warrant- Jackson County
On November 18, 2021, the Oregon State Police Southwest Region (SWR) Drug Enforcement Section (DES) team served a search warrant in the 1300 block of Antelope Rd. White City, Oregon. The location consisted of 5 industrial-sized warehouses zoned for commercial use.
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.
During the operation, which spanned over two days, 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. This is a very involved investigation and will be ongoing for several weeks. OSP will be releasing more information when available.
The OSP SWR DES team 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.
Oregon State Police seize 250 tons of illegal marijuana
WHITE CITY, Ore. (AP) — Police in Oregon say they have seized 250 tons of illegal marijuana from several industrial warehouses in White City.
The Oregon State Police announced in a news release Saturday that its Southwest Region Drug Enforcement team served a search warrant at a site that included five warehouses on Thursday. They found more than 100 people there — including several migrant workers living in poor conditions without running water — as well as what the police called an epic amount of illegal marijuana seized in Oregon.
The drug enforcement team estimated that during the two-day search approximately 500,000 pounds of cannabis was found, as well as a firearm. The Oregon State Police said the marijuana had an estimated street value of around $500 million.
White City is a small community in Jackson County near the California state line. Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler earlier this week told lawmakers the crime rate associated with the thousands of illegal marijuana farms that have sprung up this year in southern Oregon has gone through the roof.ADVERTISEMENT
“We’ve had stabbings, robberies, thefts, burglaries, homicides, sex crimes, motor vehicle accidents, DUIs, all related to the influx of the marijuana-cannabis industry in our in our valley,” Sickler said. “It is certainly an issue we deal with on a daily basis here.”
He testified Tuesday before a committee of the Oregon Legislature, in an effort to seek help in stemming the proliferation of illegal grow sites in the region.
The managers of the sites — which were brazenly erected last spring primarily in Jackson and Josephine counties in the largely rural region region — have stolen water from rivers, creeks and aquifers during a severe drought and abused immigrant workers, officials have said. In October, on the same day that a southern Oregon county declared a state of emergency amid a sharp increase in illegal cannabis farms, police raided a site that had about 2 tons of processed marijuana and 17,500 pot plants.
The Oregon State Police said the investigation at the White City warehouses will take several weeks.
Epic illegal marijuana seizure in White City accentuates growing crisis
On Tuesday, Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler testified before a committee in the Oregon Legislature that the crime rate associated with the thousands of illegal marijuana farms that have sprung up this year in Southern Oregon has gone through the roof.
“We’ve had stabbings, robberies, thefts, burglaries, homicides, sex crimes, motor vehicle accidents, DUIs, all related to the influx of the marijuana-cannabis industry in our valley,” Sickler said. “It is certainly an issue we deal with on a daily basis here.”
Two days after Sickler spoke at the statehouse in Salem, a multiagency operation resulted in what the Oregon State Police later called “an epic amount” of illegal, processed marijuana at a site in White City.
The two-day seizure — following an investigation that lasted several weeks — was announced Saturday and resulted in what OSP’s Drug Enforcement Section said was approximately 500,000 pounds of processed marijuana, which the agency called a conservative estimate, from a site on Antelope Road that consisted of five warehouse-sized buildings.
OSP said that, depending on where the pot would ultimately be exported, the street value of the drugs seized would run around $500 million.
A single firearm was confiscated during the raid, while more than 100 people — including several migrant workers living in poor conditions without running water — were initially detained, identified, interviewed and released.
Beyond the initial details of the law enforcement operation, the OSP said in a press release that more information would be released when it became available.
Sickler and other witnesses testified in hopes of receiving help to stem the proliferation of illegal grow sites in Southern Oregon.
The managers of the sites — which were brazenly erected last spring primarily in Jackson and Josephine counties in the largely rural region near the California state line — have stolen water from rivers, creeks and aquifers during a severe drought and abused immigrant workers, officials have said.
Amanda Metzler, a licensed cannabis grower and chair of the Josephine County Cannabis Advisory panel, has beefed up security around her property and no longer dares to go out alone after dark because of illegal marijuana farms in her region.
Elin Miller, a vineyard owner from Douglas County, said the illegal sites have lured away so many field workers that grape growers and wineries are suffering labor shortages, particularly at harvest time.
Many illegal marijuana farms are operating under the guise of being legal hemp farms. Steven Marks, director of the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, said that tests conducted at some 400 self-proclaimed hemp sites from July 28 to mid-September showed that most plants had higher amounts of THC, the component that gives cannabis its high, than is legally allowed for hemp.
“So the upshot is 54% of all the tests we successfully conducted were positive and presumptive for marijuana,” Marks said.
Managers of 73 sites told state inspectors to go away, and barred access. Many sites are guarded by gunmen.
Sickler described “an explosion of growth” in marijuana farms.
“We don’t have the resources in Jackson County to deal with something like that,” Sickler told the House Interim Committee On Economic Recovery and Prosperity.
Rep. Pam Marsh, a Democrat from Ashland in Jackson County, agreed.
“I can tell you that on the ground, the ubiquitous presence of these structures, often with very little effort meant to shield them from the public view, has been shocking,” Marsh said.
There aren’t enough inspectors to test for THC content at each site to determine which ones are legal and which are not, officials have said. Police said they do not have the capacity to raid all the suspicious sites, with each raid requiring an investigation and search warrant.
“First and foremost, we need to allocate significant funding to support law enforcement and code compliance operations,” Marsh told the committee. “Jackson County alone has estimated a cost of $7.3 million a year to enable the county to adequately tackle illegal grows. Josephine County is likely to have a similar need.”
Vineyards are also feeling the impact of the illegal pot farms, said Miller, chair of the Oregon Wine Council.
“We are already facing challenges finding enough workers to support our operations, particularly during peak harvest seasons,” Miller said. “The unfair and often illegal labor practices of these illegal operations are compounding that issue by paying workers in cash at significantly higher wages than those of us who … are adhering to all labor laws.”
With tons of marijuana having been recently harvested and the illicit business largely conducted in cash, gunmen are now preying on the illegal farms and marijuana processing sites.
“Crews from eight different states have come to Jackson County to perform home invasion robberies of marijuana farms or individuals associated with marijuana industry with money,” Sickler said.
Rep. John Lively, the committee chairman, said its members would draft legislation to help the situation. But he pointed out that the next legislative session, which starts in February, is a short one, lasting barely a month, giving little time for a raft of bills to pass committees and both the House and Senate.
“And so the more complex the legislation, the more problematic it’s going to be,” Lively said. “So how many issues do we try to address or not address in the short session, versus something else?”
Marsh warned that there won’t be a quick fix.
“We know that it will take several years of significant effort, perhaps three to five before we can expect to have the issue corralled,” she said.
The illegal farms produce tons of marijuana that is sold outside the state. Officials believe that foreign cartels selected Southern Oregon because it’s near the fabled marijuana-growing Emerald Triangle, a zone in which California’s Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties form the major part.
Federal drug agents and representatives of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon met Tuesday with local law enforcement and other officials to hear about the challenges they’re facing.
Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel called it “a beginning coordination meeting between agencies.”
“We all are being affected by the illegal market in so many ways that we need to work together as united as we can be,” Daniel said in an email. “The illegal marijuana market has no borders or boundaries.”
In the White City raid, the OSP’s Drug Enforcement Section team 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.
Information from an Oregon State Police press release was added to this story.