SWAT team helps in marijuana bust – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

A tractor grinds processed marijuana during a raid outside Central Point. Jackson County Sheriff’s Office photo

Police: Grow disguised as hemp grows

Local law enforcement conducted a series of recent marijuana busts, including a bust with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office’s SWAT team reinforcements because of the dangers posed by the alleged hookup of cultivation with a drug trafficking organization.

Detectives from the Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team teamed up with the SWAT team for Friday’s raid after determining there was a “high threat level” due to the site’s connection with a drug-trafficking organization, the sheriff’s office said.

Law enforcement officials believe that many local illegal crops are financially supported by foreign drug cartels.

According to the sheriff’s office, the illegal marijuana growing and processing operation in the 6500 block of Foley Lane between Central Point and Gold Hill was disguised as a legal hemp grow.

A sign on the property proclaimed “Organic Hemp Farm” and said the plants were free of THC, the substance in marijuana that gets users high. Hemp has no or low THC and is used for medicinal and industrial uses.

A sign claims that a property outside of Central Point is growing hemp. [Jackson County Sheriff’s Office photo]

Investigators found 6,856 black market marijuana plants, 9,000 pounds of processed marijuana in ready-to-ship packages, three handguns and 34 greenhouses that had been recently harvested, the sheriff’s office said.

Investigators said they found three guns during a raid on a marijuana farm outside of Central Point. [Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division]

Erving Emanuell Sandoval, 29, of Central Point, was arrested on three counts of unlawful possession, manufacture and delivery of an article of marijuana. Detectives identified additional suspects and investigations into the drug organization are ongoing, the sheriff’s office said.

Investigators detained, interviewed and released 28 people. They were referred to the Unete Center for Farmworker Advocacy in Medford for services, the sheriff’s office said.

In a separate action, Oregon’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health has opened an inspection into health and safety risks related to on-site living conditions for workers and occupants of employer-provided housing, it said the sheriff’s office.

The workers lived in squalid conditions, including a shelter made of wood, chicken wire and tarps, according to Sheriff’s Office photos of the site.

The Oregon Division of Occupational Safety and Health is investigating the living conditions of workers at a marijuana grow outside of Central Point. [Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division]

Oregon Department of Water Resources local district workers issued a violation notice for the alleged illegal use of groundwater. These violations are subject to both civil and criminal penalties.

An Oregon Department of Water Resources worker walks past water tanks during a marijuana raid outside Central Point. [Jackson County Sheriff’s Office photo]

Jackson County Code Enforcement issued citations totaling $78,000 for 34 unpermitted greenhouse structures; failure to obtain approval for the production of marijuana; electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems not permitted; solid waste; camp; and an occupied trailer inside a marijuana production area, the sheriff’s office said.

Dismantled greenhouses show harvested marijuana hanging to dry. [Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division]

Deputies from the sheriff’s office and the federal Homeland Security Investigations agency assisted in the raid.

On Thursday of last week, the Oregon State Police Southwest Regional Drug Enforcement Team served three related search warrants on a marijuana grow in the 1200 block of Yankee Creek Road and two industrial warehouses in the 100 block of Trout Way.

The locations outside of White City were raided based on evidence that they were part of an operation to illegally export marijuana from Oregon to the black market, OSP said.

In the grow, 5,024 marijuana plants in 26 large greenhouses and approximately 500 pounds of processed marijuana were destroyed, OSP said.

The raid on the warehouses revealed sophisticated illegal indoor hydroponic marijuana growing operations. A total of 6,392 illegal marijuana plants were destroyed, OSP said.

The Interagency Marijuana Enforcement Team with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and the Medford Police Department assisted in the raids, OSP said.

Contact Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

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