Maybe your neighbor has a few smelly plants and you want to know if there's something you can do about it. Maybe your neighbor is a farmer who has a field of what looks like marijuana—but you're not sure how to tell whether it's hemp—which is federally legal—or the stuff people smoke to get high. Or maybe you're actually witnessing some activity that smacks of organized crime. All of the above scenarios have happened in Central Oregon—yet for those not entirely clued into the culture of cannabis, it can be tough to discern what's legal and what's not.
That's why a team of local authorities has recently launched a website called "Cannafacts," helping people in Deschutes County sort out what's what, and where to go if there's actual illegal activity going on. The site, launched in early March, is a project of the Deschutes County Illegal Marijuana Market Enforcement team, made up of people from the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, Bend Police and the office of Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel.
Recreational cannabis became legal in Oregon in 2015—and in the years since, there's been plenty of confusion about the rules.
"Many community members have incorrectly assumed that when cannabis became legal that all cannabis activity was legalized," described a press release from the team. "Others have assumed that any unusual or suspicious cannabis activity should be reported to 911. Neither of those assumptions are accurate."
The new website is aimed at addressing some of the misinformation about cannabis out there, as well as giving people resources to follow up if they do encounter a potentially illegal situation. The site includes a "FAQ" section, a decision tree to help people determine what may be a legal versus illegal operation and a portal allowing people to submit leads. The goal, Hummel said, is to help law enforcement find and prosecute large-scale illegal operations.
"Are we spending money to stop a legal activity? No," Hummel stated. "As a supporter of decriminalization of marijuana, know that I am not out for the person who is growing five versus four plants."
Under Oregon's recreational law, the average person (who doesn't own a legal growing operation) may grow up to four plants on their private property. "The goal of our enforcement team is to end large scale illegal operations that too often are run by cartels, use banned pesticides, steal water rights, require workers to live and work in inhumane conditions and undercut legal marijuana business in Deschutes County," Hummel stated.
The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office busted a 30-acre illegal grow in Alfalfa last September—seizing over 9,000 plants and discovering the presence of some workers from Mexico who were reportedly working off debts to the people who ran the operation. In Southern Oregon, the proliferation of illegal grows prompted Jackson County to declare a state of emergency last fall.
During its special session in December, the Oregon legislature allocated $25 million to combat illegal marijuana grow sites, with $5 million going toward the protection of water rights and the rest establishing a grant program for law enforcement agencies and aiding exploited migrant workers.
The Cannafacts website is available at canna-facts.com.