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Jackson County Declares Emergency Over Illegal Marijuana Grows
Requests assistance from the state

On October 13, 2021, the Jackson County Oregon Board of Commissioners approved Order No. 186-21, Declaring a Local State of Emergency Within Jackson County Relating to Unlawful Cannabis Activities and Other Matters Related Thereto. A letter was also sent to Governor Kate Brown and the leaders of the State Legislature asking for assistance, it reads as follows:

Dear Governor Brown, Speaker Kotek, and Senate President Peter Courtney:

On October 13, 2021, we, the Jackson County Board of County Commissioners, adopted Board Order No. 186-21 and declared a local state of emergency in Jackson County due to the imminent threat to the public health and safety of our citizens from the illegal production of cannabis in our County. Since recreational marijuana was legalized by the voters of Oregon at the November 2014 General Election, the illegal and unlawful production of marijuana in our County has overwhelmed the ability of our County and State regulators to enforce relevant laws in our community. Jackson County strongly requests your assistance to address this emergency.

As detailed in Board Order No. 186-21, the ability of County and State regulators to address illegal cannabis production is simply insufficient, and is completely overwhelmed. Law enforcement in our County reports a 59 percent increase in calls for service associated with the marijuana industry. The County's Code Enforcement Officers' resources to enforce relevant County codes has been overwhelmed, such that citations which took three weeks to resolve, prior to 2014, now take four months or longer. The ability of local representatives of the State Water Resources Department report that they are unable to take any action on nearly one-third of the complaints they receive. Additionally, State regulators from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) have reported that nearly 50 percent of registered hemp grows are illegally growing marijuana, that 25 percent of registered hemp grows are refusing entry to inspectors, and only 25 percent ofregistered hemp grows are operating within the requirements of the law. Further, State regulators from OHA and OLCC are unable to take any action on the unregistered and unlicensed hemp and marijuana grows in our County, which law enforcement estimates far exceeds the number of licensed and registered grows.

As you can clearly see, Jackson County needs substantial State assistance, immediately, to address this ongoing emergency. Our Code Enforcement staff needs to triple in size, from three Officers to nine Officers, in order to handle the added workload due to cannabis-related activities. Our Hearings Officer panel needs at least two additional Hearings Officers to adjudicate the volume of citations being issued by Code Enforcement Officers.

Nathan Sickler, Jackson County Sheriff, estimates that an additional 18 detectives, four patrol deputies, three supervisors, and nine support staff, along with approximately $750,000 in materials and services per year, are urgently needed to address the crimes related to illegal marijuana production. Based on current caseload, the State Water Resources Department needs to assign another three full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, dedicated solely to investigating water-related complaints and, to handle their current caseload. And, finally, ORA and OLCC need a substantial infusion of additional staff and resources to begin investigating, and enforcing, State law related to unlicensed and unregistered hemp and marijuana grows, as well as those grows operating unlawfully.

While recent legislation during the 2021 session of the Oregon Legislature enacted bills to help address our urgent need for resources, these laws simply did not provide enough resources, or enough time, to begin to adequately attempt to address the situation in our County. Jackson County needs long-term, dedicated, and guaranteed funding for both itself, and the relevant State agencies to ensure that cannabis production is being lawfully and legally conducted in our community. As Board Order No. 186-21 provides, we are willing to take assistance in whatever form you can provide: assigning sufficient additional State employees to address these issues in our community; State funding provided to Jackson County to hire employees and contractors necessary to address these issues; or repealing the prohibition on local marijuana taxes and letting the Jackson County local tax on medical and non-medical marijuana take effect. Likely, what is going to be required to address this urgent crisis is some combination of all three options.

We implore of you, please provide assistance now, before an already out of control situation becomes even worse.

Sincerely,

JACKSON COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS

Rick Dyer, Chair

Dave Dotterrer, Commissioner

Colleen Roberts, Commissioner


--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2021-10-14 09:29:22Last Update: 2021-10-14 09:52:21



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