OLENE, Ore. — For the second time this week, law enforcement officers in Klamath County raided a purported "hemp" grow that the Sheriff's Office says was being used to cultivate marijuana for the black market.
Deputies searched a grow in the 13000-block of Crystal Springs Road near Olene on Wednesday. According to the Sheriff's Office, the property owner had leased the property to someone for "what was supposed to be a licensed commercial hemp operation." But the investigation found no evidence of licenses for hemp or marijuana.
The grow consisted of roughly 11,000 marijuana plants, the Sheriff's Office said.
With drought continuing to be an issue of widespread emergency in Oregon this year, the Sheriff's Office said that this grow operation included "substantial" diversion of water from the Lost River. Officials estimated that this amounted to 1.5 million gallons, or 4.6 acre-feet of water.
The Sheriff's Office said that prosecution is under consideration once the investigation is complete.
Like a similar statement from Klamath Falls Police Department earlier this week about two more illegal grow raids, the Sheriff's Office pointed to the recent passage of House Bill 3000, which allows law enforcement more flexibility in cracking down on illegal grows. With this grow, the Oregon Department of Forestry lent heavy equipment to help destroy the plants and infrastructure.
“KCSO and partners with the Basin Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team (BINET), have been tracking numerous operations for several weeks," Sheriff Chris Kaber said. "Recent legislative changes have made it easier to obtain warrants to destroy illegal growing operations. Earlier this week KCSO participated in an operation with BINET that took down three illegal grow sites of over 22,000 plants.”
According to the agency, there has been a growing trend of growers coming into the area and leasing property for "purposes that appear legal and offer large sums of money." Ultimately, property owners may be held responsible for the damage and clean-up needed after law enforcement destroys a grow operation.