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Deschutes County receives renewed federal grant to continue effort targeting illegal marijuana grows

(Updated: adding video, comments from sheriff's deputy)

Sheriff's office says 'black market' grows still on the rise

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Law enforcement agencies have gotten another federal grant to fund a program targeting the illegal marijuana industry in Central Oregon. It's a program of the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, District Attorney's Office and Bend Police Department -- and those involved say the problem is growing and needs the added focus.

The program began in 2018, but a sheriff's deputy tells NewsChannel 21 that the illegal marijuana industry is always changing -- keeping the need strong.

Sgt. Kent Vander Kamp said Tuesday there's been a rise in black market marijuana grows.

"I would say that in the last three years we've probably become overwhelmed with it," Vander Kamp said.

The Illegal Marijuana Market Enforcement Grant Program or IMMEG, assists local law enforcement agencies in addressing unlawful marijuana cultivation or distribution operations.

The local law enforcement agencies have noted their biggest problems being staffing shortages, training needs and challenges with the geography of the area. In the IMMEG application, the agencies listed that crimes related to unlicensed marijuana grows are "extreme."

Vander Kamp says hemp farmers with an illegal amount of THC, along with Mexican cartels, are becoming some of Central Oregon's biggest drug-related issues.

And with illegal drugs comes other crimes.

"The biggest thing is that these cases have become so complex," Vander Kamp said. "With this comes human trafficking, financial crimes, money laundering."

The new 2021-23 grant of $556,089 continues the program that began in 2018-19, funding detectives who work with the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team, along with part-time work on data collection and community engagement.

"The need for this grant is high," Vander Kamp said.

"We're going to be the next Jackson or Josephine county -- we're not far from that," he added. "They started requesting emergency assistance from the governor and another couple big grows, and we won't be far behind that."

The money comes from the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a Drug Enforcement Administration program that focuses on drug trafficking corridors such as U.S. Highway 97.

County commissioners accepted the grant award on Monday and are scheduled to adopt a resolution Wednesday regarding the additional staffing it will fund.

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Carly Keenan

Carly Keenan is a multimedia journalist and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Carly here.



      1. Im guessing they are either too young to remember or are willfully ignoring that the republicans were the party of “Legalize it” through the 90s, pretty much up until democrats got on board with the idea.

  1. Soooo, The Fed’s have to come in and save Oregon from themselves.
    And we were told that if Marry Jane was legalized, we wouldn’t have these problems, but seems just the opposite has happened, looks like we are breaking records, and not good ones, all over the State.
    Crimes related to unlicensed marijuana grows are “extreme.” “EXTREME”
    All hail Queen Kate, and her court.

      1. That I get, most ALL of us get that, the question that needs answered Mr. Sensitivity is, why are the illegal grow operation getting EXTREALY bigger, and EXTREAMLY more abundant, now that it is legal?????
        Also Beej, may have answered that with his comment. Simple supply, and demand, where it is still illegal.

        1. Hmmm…grow it here, ship it elsewhere, makes sense. I wonder how much is grown in greenhouses….with all the deer hunters in the forest this year, myself included, I’m not sure where they could hide a grow out there.

  2. Housing for the homeless? Good for the hungry? Healthcare for the sick? No. More money flushed down the toilet fighting those scary, scary potheads.

  3. This is more about Oregon being a sanctuary state than weed. If Oregon allowed ICE and other federal presence we would not have as many illegal activity especially by illegal aliens. It is much easier to distribute accross state lines the national borders. Thus Mexican cartels continue illegal drug manufacturing and trade under the protection of the state of Oregon and it’s disregard of federal immigration laws.

  4. Wait a minute I thought legalizing marijuana would eliminate the illegal growing and distribution problem but instead the illegal problem has grown. We were told by government that when marijuana was legalized law enforcement could then use resources previously spent on drug enforcement for other crime fighting.

    Of course anyone with half a brain knew that all the above was just another con job on the public sponsored by tax and spend big government and public employee unions.

    1. On the other hand, a large number of people now obtain mj legally, and not committing the crime it would have been in the past. Not having to bust people for having small amounts of pot does free up police time. That said, I’m all for busting the illegal grows and this grant provides funds to help accomplish that. I doubt LE is complaining.

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