Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) SWAT team responded to a black-market marijuana grow early Friday morning to assist Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team (IMET) detectives in serving a search warrant. IMET utilized the JCSO SWAT team after investigations determined an elevated threat level due to the property’s connection to a drug trafficking organization.
The marijuana grow and processing facility on the 6500 block of Foley Lane in rural Central Point contained approximately 6,856 black-market marijuana plants, 9,000 lbs. of processed illegal cannabis with packages ready for shipment, three firearms including a handgun without a serial number, and 34 “hoop-style” greenhouses that had recently been harvested. JCSO Patrol deputies and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) assisted with the warrant service. Despite signage located on the property, there was no licensing for any type of cannabis growing, handling, or processing at this location.
On the property 28 subjects were detained, interviewed, and released. One suspect was arrested and lodged in the Jackson County Jail. Erving Emanuell Sandoval, 29, of Central Point, was charged with three felony counts of unlawful possession, manufacture, and delivery of a marijuana item. The workers were referred to UNETE Oregon for support services.
This case was the result of a months-long investigation of an illegal/black market marijuana growing and processing operation. Detectives identified additional suspects and investigations into the drug trafficking organization are ongoing. In a separate action, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) has opened an inspection involving safety and health hazards related to the onsite living conditions for workers and occupants of the employer-provided housing. The inspection remains ongoing.
Jackson County Code Enforcement and Oregon Water Resources Department District 13 Watermasters responded to the scene to conduct independent investigations. Code Enforcement issued citations totaling $78,000 for 34 non-permitted greenhouse structures, failing to obtain marijuana production approval, non-permitted electrical, plumbing and mechanical, solid waste, and camping and an occupied trailer within a marijuana production area. Watermasters issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to the responsible parties for the appropriation of ground water for irrigation of a non-exempt crop. Water violations of this kind are subject to both civil and criminal penalties.
While regulatory agencies investigate permitted cannabis operations, IMET is focusing on the black-market marijuana trade in the Rogue Valley. IMET is a multi-agency task force funded by a grant from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission. The task force includes personnel from JCSO, Medford Police Department, HSI, Code Enforcement, Watermasters, and the DA’s Office.