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September 26, 2022
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Task Force Busts Drug Trafficking Organization Marijuana Grow, Destroys 149k Lbs. Processed Illegal Cannabis, 32k Marijuana Plants; Investigators Discover Potential Forced Labor Trafficking (Photo)
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Task Force Busts Drug Trafficking Organization Marijuana Grow, Destroys 149k Lbs. Processed Illegal Cannabis, 32k Marijuana Plants; Investigators Discover Potential Forced Labor Trafficking (Photo)

IMET Case 22-14567

RURAL JACKSONVILLE, Ore. – Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) SWAT team responded to a black-market cannabis growing and processing facility early Wednesday morning to assist Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team (IMET) detectives in serving a search warrant. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) assisted due to concerns of forced labor trafficking and substandard living conditions. IMET utilized the JCSO SWAT team after investigations determined an elevated threat level due to the property’s connection to a drug trafficking organization. 

The marijuana grow and processing facility on the 6000 block of Carberry Creek Road near Applegate Lake in Rural Jacksonville contained approximately 32,546 black-market marijuana plants, 148,900 lbs. of processed illegal cannabis, 6.6 lbs. Butane Honey Oil (BHO), $20,040 cash, and three firearms. Investigators also seized a 2020 Dodge 3500 and an industrial generator from the property. This case was the result of a months-long investigation of a black-market marijuana growing and processing operation. Detectives identified the primary suspects and investigations into the drug trafficking organization are ongoing.

On the property 16 workers were detained, interviewed, and released. HSI Medford agents identified and interviewed 15 potential victims of forced labor trafficking with the assistance of an HSI Victim Advocate Specialist (VAS) and Forensic Interview Specialist (FIS). Indications are that workers were being paid inconsistent wages, some much lower than minimum wage, and provided substandard living and working conditions to process illegal marijuana. UNETE Oregon, a center for farmworker advocacy, responded to assist the workers and provide support services. UNETE partners directly with IMET through Oregon Criminal Justice Commission grant funding in our mutual effort to address the poor treatment of migrant workers being victimized at Illegal marijuana grows. Investigators also discovered an abandoned horse on the property which was turned over to a local equine rescue group.

Jackson County Code Enforcement responded to the scene to conduct an independent investigation. Code Enforcement issued citations to the property owner totaling $98,000.00. The violations included 75 structures which are either unpermitted or contain unpermitted electrical or mechanical installations. Violations also included unpermitted marijuana production, solid waste, and camping within a marijuana grow site. The property had a permit to grow hemp but there was no licensing for recreational or medical cannabis growing, handling, or processing at this location. 

Due to the size of the growing and processing operation, many agencies assisted with the search warrant. Those assisting from JCSO included Patrol, Criminal Investigations Division, Corrections, Search and Rescue (SAR), Evidence, and K9 Teams. The outside agencies included HSI, Bureau of Land Management Law Enforcement Special Agents, United States Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations unit, Oregon State Police Southwest Region Drug Enforcement Section team, and Josephine County Sheriff’s Office detectives from the Josephine Marijuana Enforcement Team (JMET).

While regulatory agencies investigate permitted cannabis operations, IMET is focusing on the black-market marijuana trade in the Rogue Valley. IMET is a multi-agency task force funded by a grant from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission. The task force includes personnel from JCSO, Medford Police Department, HSI, Code Enforcement, Watermasters, and the DA’s Office. 

Investigations are open and ongoing with detectives working additional leads. No further information is currently available for release.

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