MEDFORD, Ore. — US Representative Cliff Bentz visited Medford on Thursday, meeting with state, county, and city officials to discuss the impacts and potential solutions for the proliferation of unlicensed marijuana grows.
In attendance were Medford Mayor Randy Sparacino, officers from the Medford Police Department, Josephine County Commissioner Dan DeYoung, Jackson County Commissioner Rick Dyer, Sheriff Nathan Sickler, and state Representative Kim Wallan.
DeYoung had prefaced in a public Board of Commissioners meeting on Wednesday that he would be meeting with Rep. Bentz to deliver a letter from Josephine County to formally ask the federal government for assistance in the "investigation and prosecution of narco networks." Just hours before, Dyer and the Jackson County Board of Commissioners declared a local state of emergency in response to the same issue.
"If we look at the amount of marijuana grown here in Jackson, Josephine county in the state, 40% of everything that goes to dispensaries ... comes from Jackson, Josephine county," said DeYoung in Thursday's meeting. "But that 40% of the state is only 20% of what's grown here in Jackson and Josephine — 80% of what's grown here is black market."
Sheriff Sickler said that Jackson County had zero marijuana-related code enforcement cases back in 2015. In 2021, that number has increased to 663 code violations in a year.
"If you threw $20 million at this, we could probably make a pretty good dent," said Dyer. "That might just be enough for the cartels to say, 'this is no longer the easy mark that it was. We're going to move on.' And that's what they did from Humboldt County. And that's why they're here."
"You're never going to get a handle on it because there is not enough money," DeYoung said. "And it is about money. We can't afford to hire more deputies and have MRAP trucks, and you name it, to go actually fight these people. We are fighting a cartel. We're not just fighting a guy that wants to grow a few plants behind his house and cheat."
After listening to everyone in the meeting, Bentz promised to use his time next week to express both Jackson and Josephine counties' concerns and needs before the House Judiciary Committee.
This is a developing story and will be updated with more details as they emerge.