Due to its liberal laws, Oregon attracting international drug cartels that use ‘narco slaves’ for their illegal operations

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OREGON — Illegal marijuana operations run by domestic and international cartels are expanding throughout Oregon thanks to the state’s liberal laws and inadequate regulations, which impact the legal and illegal drug industries as well as law enforcement’s ability to address drug crimes.

Major cartels, including ones from China, Mexico, Russia, Argentina, Bulgaria and other countries, are now growing marijuana year-round and committing other egregious crimes, such as human trafficking and slavery, to support their illegal activities because Oregon has made it hard for police and farm inspectors to do their jobs.

For example, police in Oregon are prohibited by law from asking about nationality or immigration status, according to a report by The Epoch Times.

In addition, legal hemp farmers are not obligated under Oregon law to allow inspectors onto their property to search for illegal marijuana cultivation operations on their farms.

Retired Tucson Border Patrol Chief Roy Villareal, who saw a lot of action at the U.S.-Mexico border, told FOX News human trafficking is a huge element of the drug industry:

“Trafficking is a multibillion-dollar industry. A lot of these vulnerable populations use their life savings.

“Some are essentially indentured servants and they’re working off this debt for a long period of time.

“In other cases, some of these migrants are asked to transport narcotics or some form of crime to work off a different part of their debt.”

Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel confirmed that drug traffickers are now coming to Oregon. He told The Epoch Times:

“Drug traffickers have flocked here from every state in the nation and nearly a dozen countries.”

Oregon’s Jackson County has declared a state of emergency as cartels have stolen water, intimidated residents and enslaved more than 10,000 illegal immigrants.

The immigrants are reportedly forced into service under threats to their lives or those of their families back home.

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According to a report by The Epoch Times:

“An Aug. 17 collaboration with HIDTA [High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas] led to a large raid in which about 250 law enforcement officers from more than a dozen state, local, and federal agencies served a search warrant at a suspected grow.

“That search uncovered approximately 200,000 plants in 400 greenhouses, spread across 1,300 acres.

“It also revealed the extent of narco slavery, with nearly 300 workers living in squalid conditions on-site.”

There are also allegations that some people have been tortured or executed, according to the same report.

Albany Police Captain Brad Liles told The Epoch Times in a separate report that Chinese operators had major and sophisticated indoor growing operations:

“Growers convert a house, barn, or large outbuilding and retrofit it with lighting, ballasts, and hydroponics that operate on timers.”

In the small town of Philomath, one illegal operation took place in a two-story warehouse structure with 11 rooms and 5,000 square feet.

According to Philomath Chief of Police Ken Rueben, the warehouse contained 4,000 plants in varying stages, from starters to fully-grown plants ready to harvest.

The sophisticated facility even used generators, air filtration devices and electronically controlled temperature and humidity based on the age of the plants.

Five suspects allegedly connected with a Chinese organized crime group headquartered in New York were arrested during the raid, according to Chief Rueben.

The suspects communicated through an interpreter and include Jianhua Chen, Yushen Chen, Shuiqing Hu, Zining Huang and Weiming Wu.

All five face felony charges related to possession, delivery and unlawful manufacturing of marijuana, according to the report.

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How were authorities tipped off in the Chinese cartel case?

Reuben said a high electricity bill and a vehicle registration led to a search warrant on Nov. 29.

Law enforcement had tracked a vehicle that was making drug deliveries in Portland back to the property. A check of the power bill also showed that consumption at the site was unusually high.

Rick Fromme of Apex Data Consulting told The Epoch Times:

“An indoor grow house typically uses as much energy as 10 homes.

“Where a typical house may have a bill of less than $200, a grow house will be in the thousands.”

However, drug operators do not care about the amount of energy they use nor its impact on the environment and climate change. They are solely focused on acquiring money.

Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-OR) wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland to ask for federal help.

Specifically, the congressman requested that Garland direct the FBI and DEA to provide additional resources to Jackson, Josephine, Douglas and Klamath counties in Oregon.

Bentz also requested teams of up to 20 people be sent to each location, according the report.

Bentz also held a roundtable discussion last month in Medford.

During the Nov. 10 meeting, Bentz said:

“There’s a lot of frustration and a lot of fear, and a lot of people are getting hurt. We need to get in here and do something about it.”

The congressman also noted:

“This is a humanitarian disaster taking place in plain sight. People just can’t ignore it.”

The illegal operations have infiltrated legal hemp farms because the cartels can hide their unlawful plants on properties where farmers are not obligated under Oregon law to allow inspectors onto their property.

State Rep. Lily Morgan told The Epoch Times that the illegal growing of unregulated marijuana is problematic:

“Oregon has issued hemp licenses since 2015, but there wasn’t an inspector on the ground until 2020.

“The [bill] legalizing the production of hemp did not contemplate intoxicating hemp products entering the general marketplace.”

Criminals appear to be getting direct assistance from legal hemp farms in two ways.

First, the cartels grow their illegal plants on the legal farms.

Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel told The Epoch Times:

“Many operations will intersperse the marijuana plants in a field of hemp. When the grow is done, they harvest the illegal marijuana and let the hemp rot.”

Second, many registered hemp farms won’t allow state inspectors in, and there’s nothing law enforcement can do.

According to The Epoch Times, Oregon Health Authority reports that nearly half of the registered hemp farms inspected in the state are allowing the cartels to have access to their properties.

However, it is not clear whether the farmers are supporting and benefiting from the illegal growers or only assisting them under duress.

Nonetheless, the presence of drug cartels is leading to other problems.

Rep. Morgan pointed out:

“We have violence related to the transfer of money.”

She also noted that Oregon is a “critical drug-trafficking region” that needs “aggressive enforcement” activities that can be provided by the HIDTA program.

The program enables partnerships between local law enforcement and federal drug enforcement.

Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler stressed that prosecutions also need to happen:

“We also need the U.S. Attorney on board. We can arrest as many people as we want, but if there’s no prosecution, it doesn’t matter.”

The sheriff also suggested agencies at the federal level, like the IRS, should be interested in getting involved because millions of dollars are involved in these illegal operations:

“We’ve seized millions of dollars in cash and it’s not taxed or accounted for, and that’s just the money we’ve seized.”

Albany Police Captain Liles confirmed that these illegal drug operations are bringing in big bucks:

“In the past year and a half, we’ve made the largest marijuana seizures we’ve ever been involved with.

“We’re seeing operations with as many as 10,000 plants. And the amount of money is just ridiculous.”

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