Oregon struggles to ID which pot sites are legal
Salem, Ore. – An Oregon sheriff and district attorney blasted efforts to regulate legalized marijuana, saying Tuesday the state is allowing black market operations to proliferate.
The issue is especially sensitive because U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently allowed federal prosecutors more leeway to pursue federal anti-marijuana laws in states like Oregon that have legalized pot. The top federal attorney in Oregon, Billy Williams, earlier this month said Oregon produces more marijuana than it consumes, with the overproduction feeding the black market. He urged locals to address the problem to avoid a possible crackdown.
Marijuana grow sites have flourished in many parts of the state, including in Deschutes County, Oregon’s fastest-growing county which sprawls over high desert and the snowy peaks of the Cascade Range.
Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel and Sheriff Shane Nelson announced charges stemming from an illegal grow site that deputies discovered accidentally – and sharply criticized state regulatory efforts as basically nonexistent.
“Our state has no regulation for the marijuana industry,” Nelson said at a news conference in the district attorney’s offices in Bend. “In order to have regulation an agency has to have enough resources to be effective at enforcement of the regulations. Oregon does not have this.”
The Oregon Health Authority, which regulates medical marijuana, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday’s assertions. Mark Pettinger, a spokesman for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which regulates recreational marijuana, noted the agency depends on the Legislature for funding for marijuana enforcement.
Hummel and Nelson complained in a Feb. 7 letter to the health authority that local law enforcement officers often can’t tell whether medical marijuana grow sites are legal or illegal because the agency hasn’t provided a list of authorized sites.
“Unfortunately, our hands are often tied when it comes to enforcing manufacturing and cultivation laws,” they wrote to Carole Yann, the agency’s manager of the medical marijuana program. They asked for a list of all registered medical marijuana grow sites in Deschutes County, but said they have not received a response.
Hummel told reporters the health authority conducted no inspections in Deschutes County in 2017, and said it is “ridiculous” that the agency provides a 10-day written notification of an inspection to growers.
Jonathan Modie, a spokesman for the health authority, said it is reviewing the letter and plans to respond soon. He confirmed that a 10-day notice is given for routine inspections but that for “complaint inspections,” staffers may make an unannounced visit.
In the news conference, Nelson complained that the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has only 23 inspectors for more than 1,200 marijuana grows and retail outlets.