WASHINGTON, DC — After a brief segue into the issue of illegal marijuana grows in southern Oregon during a US House Judiciary meeting with Atorney General Merrick Garland last month, Congressman Cliff Bentz followed up with a letter to the nation's top law enforcement officer on Friday, urging him to put federal resources on the issue.
"At least four counties in this area are suffering from Mexican, Russian, and Chinese cartel activity," Bentz wrote to the Attorney General. "According to local law enforcement officials, these cartels are producing cannabis 'grows' farmed by thousands of undocumented people brought across our southern border."
Rep. Bentz met with law enforcement and elected leaders from Jackson and Josephine counties on October 14, where they briefed him on the extent of the illegal marijuana issue. Hours earlier, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners had declared a local state of emergency for the problem.
In his letter, Bentz referenced a DOJ memo that established federal resources woud avoid crackdowns on cannabis in states like Oregon that have legalized its use. Cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, but enough states have legalized the plant in one form or another that federal law enforcement has largely de-prioritized its pursuit. An unintended consequence is the flourishing of black market marijuana.
"Oregon does not have the means to control the hundreds, if not thousands, of illegal cannabis 'grows,'" Bentz continued. "Likewise, Oregon cannot stop the influx of immigrants, many pressed into forced labor, necessary for the cartels to operate."
The Congressman pointed the finger at both the federal government's marijuana policies and the Biden administration's "lax border policies" for a humanitarian crisis.
"To put it bluntly, Oregon needs the Federal Government's help," Bentz continued. "Specifically, we need teams of up to 20 people for each affected county, to assist local law enforcement in identifying illegal grows, eradicating those grows, and then prosecuting the criminals conducting the illegal grows."