The thriving market for high-grade marijuana in Portland and Seattle has Oregon State Police keeping a closer eye on Interstate 5's northbound traffic.
OSP Sgt. Dave Beck, who works out of Central Point, said the flow of pot has trended north in recent years for a number of reasons.
"From what we've seen, Southern California is getting the bulk of its marijuana from places like Humboldt County and the large cartels in Mexico," Beck said. "A lot of the marijuana from Southern Oregon then goes north to the bigger cities."
OSP troopers made three sizable pot busts in recent weeks while patrolling the northbound lanes of Interstate 5.
Troopers were working the northbound lane near milepost 29 in Medford on the night of March 3 when they stopped a 2003 Dodge 3500 pickup for speeding. Troopers called in Medford police's drug sniffing dog to search the car, which led to the discovery of approximately five pounds of marijuana.
The pot was stuffed into bags and ready for sale, Beck said. The estimated value of the marijuana was $10,000.
The occupants were later identified as James Mead, 19, Jacob Hadaller, 23 and Clifford Carbin, 21, all of Centralia, Wash. Each was arrested on possession and delivery of marijuana charges.
Two days later, troopers stopped a 2003 Chevrolet Impala on the northbound lane near milepost 11 near Ashland.
A subsequent search led to the seizure of around seven pounds of marijuana, hidden in three plastic bags inside the trunk. The value of the pot was estimated at around $14,000.
Arrested were Paul Resendez, 39, and Sarah Hessinger, 35, both of Cave Junction. The too face felony marijuana delivery and possession charges.
Finally, on March 6 a trooper stopped a rented 2010 Dodge Charger heading north near milepost 64 in Josephine County. The driver was identified as Michael Allen Orman, 30, of Spokane, Wash.
The troopers learned Orman was wanted by police in Marion County for money laundering. His driver's license also was suspended.
OSP was granted a warrant to search his car the next day. Inside they found 50 pounds of marijuana hidden in the trunk. The value of the marijuana was estimated at $125,000.
Orman is now facing felony drug charges to go along with his felony warrant.
Beck said the marijuana traveling up the interstate was grown indoors, much of it produced locally.
"There really isn't a season for marijuana," Beck said. "You can grow high quality marijuana year around. Most of what we are seeing is heading to the northern part of the state."
Beck said the recent uptick in busts might have to do with the improving weather.
"For a while, it was hard to travel through the passes, but that doesn't seem to be an issue now," he said.
Beck said he expect troopers to seize more marijuana as summer approaches.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.