Yoncalla weed

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and Douglas Interagency Narcotics team seized more than 49,000 marijuana plants with an estimated $50 million in the Scotts Valley area Sept. 1. One man, 44-year-old Jose Figueroa-Aguilar of Modesto, California, was arrested as a result of the investigation.

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners Wednesday declared a state of emergency around the dramatic increase of illegal marijuana grows and the problems that have come with it.

Commissioner Chris Boice read the declaration into the record at the board’s regular meeting Wednesday.

The commissioners said a host of problems are caused by the grows, from mistreatment of workers to increased criminal activity to environmental harm from chemicals used at the grow sites.

Chris Boice

Chris Boice

The declaration complains of a lack of state funding to deal with the problems and calls on the governor and state Legislature to provide the county with funding to hire additional sheriff’s deputies, deputy district attorneys, code enforcement officers and other employees so that the laws can be enforced.

Commissioner Tim Freeman said the county receives a staggering number of calls about illegal marijuana grows.

“People call and they’re scared. They’re scared where they live, they’re afraid of what’s going on around them, in many cases they’re afraid to leave their homes and nobody in our county should have to live in fear,” Freeman said.

Freeman said in the past year, more than 300,000 illegally grown marijuana plants have been confiscated in Douglas County.

190807-nrr-timfreeman-01

Tim Freeman

“If you went back 10 or 15 years ago, in the entire state if they did 100,000 plants it would be a big year. So that’s the magnitude of growth that has gone on and the magnitude of problem,” he said.

While statewide voters legalized marijuana by ballot measure in 2014, Douglas County voters chose to prohibit recreational marijuana production and sale outside city limits within the county.

Some cities within the county allow recreational marijuana sales, but the marijuana is tracked from seed to finished product and regulated by the state.

Illegal growers and producers do not have the required licenses, and most of their product is sold outside the state.

Among the problems associated with these illegal businesses are forced labor, unsafe living conditions and abuse of workers, as well as violations of state water laws.

Many of the illegal growing operations pose as a hemp farm, however, multiple recent busts in Douglas County over the past three months did not have an authorized hemp permit issued from the State of Oregon.

Just two weeks ago, the Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team seized more than 66,000 marijuana plants and 11,000 pounds of dried, processed marijuana buds from an illegal growing operation near Canyonville. That raid came just two weeks after authorities seized more than 56,000 marijuana plants from another illegal grow in the 4000 block of Tiller Trail Highway.

“This operation, like many others in southern Oregon, was designed to look like a legal hemp cultivation business since it is difficult to distinguish between legal hemp and illegal marijuana,” the Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team said in a statement released Oct. 7. “These operations are largely operated and controlled by notorious foreign drug cartels. Additionally, these operations are causing significant environmental damage due to the volume of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, the buildup of garbage and even the high volume of human feces.”

In early September, another illegal grow operation was raided in the Scotts Valley area near Yoncalla, where roughly 150 greenhouses yielded more than 49,000 live marijuana plants. The total discovery of that raid had an estimated street value of $50 million.

The county’s state of emergency declaration took effect immediately and is set to continue through December 2022.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213.

React to this story:

6
6
1
1
4

Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

Recommended for you

(12) comments

garyd

why doesn't the county sell the pot that is confiscated to licensed growers. the county could put it on the auction block.

George Weston

Haven't our county leaders harped about the governor declaring a state of emergency with covid? I guess it is ok if they declare a state of emergency. Didn't the sheriff say he wasn't going to enforce the laws? Sounds like doublespeak to me.

Clee

Not that long ago the US Attorney brought federal charges against marijuana plantations, as they have more severe sentences available and the ability to deal with "international cartels." In the last five years what has been the prosecution record of our district attorney's office regarding marijuana plantations, employers abusing employees, chemical contamination offenses and water offenses? I do not remember any such stories.

Mike

This article mentions 3 recent Douglas County big busts of over 49,000 plants each, worth a street value of over $150 million each. Of these three big busts mentioned in this article, ONLY the Canyonville bust 2-weeks ago was previously reported by the News-Review. That appears strange considering the News-Review pretty much publishes every traffic stop drug bust with the person’s picture.

And with little previous reporting, NOW a STATE OF EMERGENCY has been declared. And according to Commissioner Freeman one of the reasons is because, “These operations are largely operated and controlled by notorious foreign drug cartels.”

Yet when I searched the News-Review’s archives, the only other DINT drug bust mentioned this year was reported (below link) on August 12 in Winston, during which 40,000 plants were seized and the people arrested were Roseburg residents Ellie Marie Nickell and Craig Allen Combs. Neither of which I would have guessed from their pictures to be members of a notorious foreign drug cartel.

https://www.nrtoday.com/news/crime/two-arrested-more-than-40k-plants-seized-in-marijuana-raid/article_66808af3-437d-5a2b-afc7-238bd73499bc.html

Keepin it Real

So what you are saying is that if the News Review doesnt print it, it must not be true? If not ever printed or reported by the News Review, it never happened?

Mike

Quit trying to AGAIN twist my words. I never said "if the News Review doesn't print it, it must not be true." I said it was "strange."

thewilsons

Well things always go wrong when investigated. This article states sales are not permitted outside city limits. Well why is the Red Barn selling in Tri-city south of Myrtle Creek? The Tri-city rural community is not incorporated and therefore not a city. It is still under County jurisdiction and "well" the voters said "NO TO SALES". Just a comment worth taking another look.

rev_rend

That parcel is incorporated in Myrtle Creek. You can see it on the county GIS map.

George Weston

This has been an ongoing issue for years. Myrtle Creek has been trying to incorporate Tri-City, for tax purposes for almost 40 years that I know of. If you pay attention on the old highway, there is a sign that says Myrtle Creek, followed by a sign that says that you are still in Tri-City.

Wretched722

Just declare Douglas County a marijuana-free zone. People who want this scat can go grow it outside of Eugene, Salem or Portland.

CitizenJoe

Well, good. I am delighted to learn that the commissioners and the sheriff are now concerned about enforcing federal and state laws. "[N]obody in our county should have to live in fear." I agree.

As for funding: confiscation! There's cash, there's product, there's real estate, and there's lots of equipment. I'd love to have a couple hoop houses for cheap.

D Steel

Agree with the confiscation, take the product, take the assets, $50 million would do a lot of good for Douglas County.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.