If cannabis farmers in Oregon don’t clean up their act, their migrant workers could be deported, and landowners will have to pay the price. Oregon is a great place to grow weed.
AP News reports that the head of the state’s office that regulates cannabis and alcohol has said that southern Oregon is to marijuana what Bordeaux is to wine. But some people with less-than-perfect morals could ruin the land for everyone.
Illegal growers who pay a lot of money upfront to lease or buy land are causing a big problem for the state. But it seems like they only grow weed to make money and don’t care about the land or their workers, which gives cannabis a bad name.
These growers drain the water table, dirty the air, and leave trash everywhere. Now, the Oregon Legislature is trying to pass a new bill that would make the landowners directly responsible for these harmful effects.
— Cherry Blossom Hemp (@cbhemp) June 13, 2023
If the bill passes, it will stop using groundwater and rivers. It would also seize the papers of the migrant workers who care for the plants and turn them in so they can be deported.
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And if the landlord doesn’t pay for the cleanup, even if they didn’t, the government could file a claim of lien against the property used to grow illegal cannabis. So far, the bill has been passed by both the Senate and the House.
Speaker Dan Rayfield signed the bill on Wednesday, even though some Republicans were against it. On the Senate floor, Republican Sen. Dennis Linthicum said, “This is just an attack on property rights in Oregon.”
If all goes as planned, Oregon’s Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek will sign the bill next week. “The governor supports cracking down on illegal cannabis operations that have been prevalent in southern Oregon,” said Elisabeth Shepard, Kotek’s spokesperson.
In this economy, it’s easy to see why some homeowners sold or rented their land to people who seemed shady. AP News says buyers to hand over bags full of thousands of dollars in cash, and sometimes there is more than one backpack full of bills to choose from.
Last year, a landlord got three offers. One said, “We pay CASH and can close quickly.” But not everyone likes the idea of earning money quickly—democratic Sen.
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Jeff Golden noted that property owners should know something is wrong if asked to rent their land for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year at the start of the growing season.
Police in Oregon say that part of the problem is that the land is so green that it has attracted crooks from all over the world, from Russia to Mexico, who want to make money in the U.S. cannabis market.
So many hoop houses (cheap greenhouses) were being built that the local government didn’t have enough people to shut them all down. The farms in question are known for putting their workers in awful situations like open toilets and giving them less money than they deserve.
And, according to Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler, when the growers wrap up, no one bothers to clean up any of the waste, whether it’s from an outhouse or greenhouse. “Frankly, it’s an eyesore for our community, with no means to deal with it,” Sickler said.
AP says that while some landlords are worried about the bill, others are happy. At least most of the landlords knew what they were doing was wrong. Jack Dwyer, a homeowner near Selm, Oregon, said, “I think this measure will help to stop the flow.”
In 2021, Dwyer said that a big illegal grow near his property took all the water from a creek that ran through his land, drying it up. And Christopher Hall, whose job is to get people involved in taking care of water, thinks the bill will finally solve the problem.
Hall says these cash-bought illegal grow farms “not only turn streams into gravel roads, but also lead to serious human rights violations and the dumping of trash, sewage, chemicals, and other waste into ditches, riparian areas, and streams.”