MEDFORD, Ore. — In a letter to Governor Kate Brown and state officials approved last week, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners asked for assistance from the Oregon National Guard in cracking down illegal marijuana production in the area. But a response from the Governor's office suggests that the help is unlikely to come anytime soon.
Jackson County declared a state of emergency last Wednesday, in part as a vehicle to lobby the state for funding that could translate into more law and code enforcement personnel to deal with the rapid escalation of unlicensed marijuana grows and local authorities' inability to respond quickly enough.
Commissioner Rick Dyer confirmed on Monday that they'd also asked the Governor for National Guard support, which was first reported by the Associated Press.
In a statement NewsWatch 12, Governor Brown's press secretary Liz Merah indicated that Brown agreed with the commissioners' assessment of the severity of the problem, but would not be able to commit more resources until next year.
Merah cited Brown's support of House Bill 3000, one of the most recent legislative efforts to combine state and local resources in cracking down on unlicensed cannabis, and the creation of a multi-agency team to work on implementing it.
"This team has been hard at work in the region during harvest season," Merah said. "Additionally, and after conversations with local leaders, the Governor directed OSP to specifically dedicate additional resources to multi-agency operations."
Brown also authorized doubling the size of cannabis-related law enforcement grants for the region, Merah said, but those funds won't come through until just prior to the 2022 growing season.
The Oregon National Guard does already have a presence on several drug enforcement teams in southern Oregon, Merah said — although it likely does not represent the kind of investment in personnel that Jackson County has requested. One full-time National Guardsman is embedded each with the OSP Marijuana Task Force based in Medford, the Homeland Security Investigations Medford office, and with the Klamath County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force.
Merah said that this year the Oregon Military Department also has an aviation program with two pilots who have flown missions in support of law enforcement agencies.
"The message is clear –– Oregon is not open for business to illegal cannabis grows," Merah continued. "These are criminal enterprises that deplete water resources while our state is in drought, hold their workforce in inhumane conditions, and severely harm our legal cannabis marketplace."
Guardsmen are unlikely to be mobilized in force to southern Oregon on marijuana enforcement duty this year for two reasons, Merah said: first, because many of them have already been deployed to support hospitals during the COVID-19 Delta variant surge; and because the current growing season is already essentially over.
"The Governor remains concerned about the situation and will continue to monitor what resources might be needed for the 2022 growing season," Merah concluded.