Nov 7 – Attention Southern Oregon Farm Land Owners: Consider yourself vigilant.
It has been common knowledge for some time that Jackson and Josephine counties are the sites of illegal marijuana cultivation. Some of them are massive farms with multiple greenhouses and thousands of plants; others are camouflaged within vegetation fields masquerading as licensed hemp farms. There are also many legal, licensed breeders who produce recreational marijuana for the Oregon regulated market.
However, because marijuana remains a controlled substance under federal law and is still illegal to possess and consume in many states, it fetches peak prices on the black market.
The county authorities, overwhelmed by the illegal operations, have sent notices to property owners with their annual tax bills. The letters warn that landowners could face heavy fines or, in some cases, criminal prosecution, and even civil recovery procedures that could cost them their land if they leased to illegal farmers.
The Mail Tribune and other news outlets have published several reports this season of rampant illegal cultivation, largely operated by foreign cartels that employ immigrants in slave-like conditions. These businesses could not exist without land and water, and anyone who leases them is taking a great risk.
Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration fines for not registering a farm labor camp can exceed US $ 100,000. Building greenhouses without county approval can cost the property owner – not the tenant – fines of up to $ 13,000 per building.
Water theft is another potential liability for property owners. Illegal use of water can result in fines of up to $ 1,000 per day.
And that’s just the civil sanctions. Depending on the circumstances, property owners can be prosecuted.
When all of this began after voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2014 and Congress declared hemp a legal agricultural crop in 2018, it was perhaps understandable that property owners should be deceived by illegal operators who claimed they had all the licenses required and permits to grow cannabis legally. Now it is too late for many owners faced with established plantations on their land. And no one should lease land to someone who claims to have a license without verifying it.
Owners can contact the state’s Department of Agriculture, which regulates hemp cultivation, to find out if their tenants have a license to grow the non-intoxicating cannabis strains. But the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (formerly Oregon Liquor Control Commission) will neither confirm nor deny whether a person is licensed to grow recreational or medicinal marijuana, according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. You can download an image of an official license and get answers to other questions by visiting the Sheriff’s Office website.
The problem of illegality is growing and all the human suffering that goes with it is no secret. There is no excuse for property owners to pretend they don’t know what is happening on their land.