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Authorities bust large-scale illegal marijuana operation

Written by on October 8, 2021

Canyonville, Ore. – On Tuesday, October 5th, 2021, members of the Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team executed a search warrant at a large scale illicit marijuana growing operation in the 9000 block of Days Creek Cutoff Road in Canyonville. The activity was being conducted on two parcels of historical farmland along the South Umpqua River just a few miles east of Canyonville. There were two residences involved along with numerous outbuildings, RV’s, and barns.

The operation consisted of more than 100 “hoop house” style greenhouses, most of which were full of illegal marijuana. Police officers contacted and interviewed numerous individuals at the scene, most of which were low level immigrant workers who were released. 31 year old Carlos Flores Santacruz, who lives at the site, was arrested and lodged at the Douglas County Jail on charges of Unlawful Possession and Unlawful Manufacture of Marijuana.

In total, DINT seized over 66,000 live marijuana plants, and over 11,000 pounds of processed marijuana.

Approximately two weeks ago in a related investigation, DINT seized over 56,000 live marijuana plants at a nearby location in the 4,000 block of Tiller Trail Hwy. The two locations are similar in nature and operated by the same individuals. The investigation is ongoing and further arrests are anticipated.

This operation, like many others in southern Oregon, was designed to look like a legal hemp cultivation business since it is difficult to distinguish between legal hemp, and illegal marijuana. Black market marijuana producers regularly hide behind the legal hemp market as camouflage for their illicit activity. Hemp producers are required to be permitted, and are regulated by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). None of the locations mentioned today had legitimate hemp permits through the ODA. Marijuana can also be legally grown in Douglas County through the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program. OMMP permit holders are allowed to grow small amounts of marijuana for personal use, based on medical need. There were no OMMP permits for these sites. Recreationally, any location in Oregon is allowed to grow 4 marijuana plants, also for personal use. However, locations like the ones described above are illegally growing tens of thousands of marijuana plants at a time and selling them on the black market for millions of dollars.

These illicit marijuana operations have sprung up recently in southern Oregon causing numerous problems for our communities and the neighboring areas. These operations are largely operated and controlled by notorious foreign drug cartels. Additionally these operations are causing significant environmental damage due to the volume of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, the buildup of garbage, and even the high volume of human feces. These operations are often illegally overutilizing the precious water resources, which is particularly concerning during a time of drought like this year.

DINT was assisted on this case by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Roseburg Police, Winston Police, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Douglas County Public Works Division.

This year, DINT and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office have investigated 22 illegal marijuana growing operations, eradicated approximately 300,000 marijuana plants, and seized approximately 50,000 pounds of dried, processed marijuana.

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