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Illegal growers on notice

Local police and prosecutors are preparing to tackle illegal marijuana growing operations when the summer growing season begins. The new Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team, funded through a state grant, should be welcome news to rural residents and to licensed growers trying to play by the rules, but it’s unfortunate that it had to come to this.

Since legalization took full effect, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, code enforcement officials and county commissioners have been inundated with complaints about grows, and marijuana-related crimes have put pressure on law enforcement.

Much of the responsibility lies with state lawmakers and regulators, who lifted an initial ban on out-of-state interests moving in and set no limit on the number of growers.

The result was overproduction of marijuana, sending retail prices tumbling and increasing the incentive for unscrupulous growers to cash in on the black market in other states.

One of the arguments in favor of legalization was that it would relieve police agencies from arresting people on marijuana possession and distribution charges by bringing that activity out of the shadows and regulating it. Instead, law enforcement is coping with too many growers competing in a limited retail market.

Eventually, Congress will probably legalize cannabis nationally. But until then, local law enforcement can hardly turn a blind eye to illegal operations.

Those engaged in that activity are now on notice that ignoring the law comes with consequences. And licensed growers have a strong interest in supporting law enforcement’s efforts to clean up the mess left by state officials.