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SWAT team aids in marijuana bust

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A tractor shreds processed marijuana during a raid outside Central Point. Jackson County Sheriff’s Office photo
Police: Grow was masquerading as hemp grow

Local law enforcement carried out a series of recent marijuana raids, including a bust carried out with reinforcement from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team because of dangers posed by the grow’s alleged connection to a drug trafficking organization.

Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team detectives joined forces with the SWAT team for the Friday raid after determining there was an “elevated threat level” due to the site’s connection to a drug trafficking organization, the sheriff’s office said.

Law enforcement members believe many local illegal grows are financially backed by foreign drug cartels.

The illegal marijuana growing and processing operation in the 6500 block of Foley Lane between Central Point and Gold Hill was masquerading as a legal hemp grow, according to the sheriff’s office.

A sign at the property proclaimed “Organic Hemp Farm” and said the plants had no THC, the substance in marijuana that gets users high. Hemp has no or low THC and is used for medicinal and industrial uses.

A sign claims a property outside Central Point is growing hemp. [Jackson County Sheriff’s Office photo]

Investigators found 6,856 black market marijuana plants, 9,000 pounds of processed marijuana with packages ready for shipment, three guns and 34 greenhouses that had recently been harvested, the sheriff’s office said.

Investigators said they found three guns during a raid at a marijuana grow outside Central Point. [Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division]

Erving Emanuell Sandoval, 29, of Central Point, was arrested on three felony charges of unlawful possession, manufacture and delivery of a marijuana item. Detectives identified additional suspects, and investigations into the drug trafficking organization are ongoing, the sheriff’s office said.

Investigators detained, interviewed and released 28 people. They were referred to the Unete Center for Farm Worker Advocacy in Medford for services, the sheriff’s office said.

In a separate action, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division has opened an inspection into safety and health hazards related to the onsite living conditions for workers and occupants of the employer-provided housing, the sheriff’s office said.

Workers were living in squalid conditions, including a shelter crafted out of wood, chicken wire and tarps, according to sheriff’s office photos from the site.

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division is investigating workers’ living conditions at a marijuana grow outside Central Point. [Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division]

Workers with the local district of the Oregon Water Resources Department issued a violation notice for the alleged illegal use of groundwater. Such violations are subject to both civil and criminal penalties.

An Oregon Water Resources Department worker walks past water tanks during a marijuana raid outside Central Point. [Jackson County Sheriff’s Office photo]

Jackson County 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 systems; solid waste; camping; and an occupied trailer within a marijuana production area, the sheriff’s office said.

Dismantled greenhouses show harvested marijuana hung up to dry. [Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division]

Sheriff’s office deputies and the federal Homeland Security Investigations agency assisted in the raid.

On Thursday of last week, the Oregon State Police Southwest Region Drug Enforcement team served three related search warrants at a marijuana grow in the 1200 block of Yankee Creek Road and two industrial warehouses in the 100 block of Trout Way.

The sites outside White City were raided based on evidence they were part of an operation to illegally export marijuana from Oregon to the black market, OSP said.

At the grow, 5,024 marijuana plants in 26 large greenhouses and approximately 500 pounds of processed marijuana were destroyed, OSP said.

The raid at the warehouses revealed sophisticated illegal indoor hydroponic marijuana growing operations. A total of 6,392 illegal marijuana plants were destroyed, OSP said.

The Interagency Marijuana Enforcement Team with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and the Medford Police Department aided in the raids, OSP said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.