A ranch in southern Oregon was reportedly raided last week over suspicion of various illegal activity, including alleged cannabis cultivation and human trafficking.
According to a report from Jefferson Public Radio, the sheriff’s department in Josephine County, Oregon conducted the raid on Wednesday as “part of a larger investigation that began with the death of a man from a different illegal marijuana farm.”
“The man had been driven to the Chevron gas station in Cave Junction in critical condition and left there,” the report said. “The man later died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. Within two days of his death, that Martin Road farm had been harvested, and the workers moved to this ranch, called the Q Bar X Ranch, in the Illinois Valley.”
The station said that the allegations of human trafficking “followed multiple 911 hangup calls that came from the property, as well as a source who is remaining anonymous for their own safety,” with the Josephine County sheriff, Dave Daniel, saying that the farms have the look of cartels.
“We’ve heard of the threat of harm to your family if you don’t go with us,” Daniel told Jefferson Public Radio. “And then they are transported up to the location. From what we are understanding, these workers are not paid until the end of the year when the shipment goes out and the money is brought in. There’s not like a weekly payroll going on here.”
The investigation is an extensive effort, with the county sheriff’s department being assisted by more than a dozen other state and federal law enforcement agencies that include both the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The raid itself proved just as substantial. Jefferson Public Radio reported that 250 law enforcement officials entered the property, which spanned more than 1,300 acres and included 200 workers. “At the conclusion of the operation, 10 firearms and $140,000 in cash were seized. In addition, 72,283 marijuana plants were destroyed along with 6,000 pounds of processed marijuana and 373 greenhouses. When the over 250 law enforcement officers entered the property, they found the workers living in squalid conditions, sleeping on cardboard mats or in tents,” the report said.
The report said that workers “denied that they had been trafficked,” and that no arrests have been made.
Recreational marijuana is legal in Oregon, but growers must be licensed. Voters in the state legalized weed in 2014 when they passed a ballot measure permitting recreational marijuana use for adults 21 years and older. Dispensaries opened their doors to customers a year later.
The raid last week in Josephine County evokes a similar operation in Oklahoma that was broken up earlier this summer. In June, according to local television station FOX 25, Oklahoma’s Bureau of Narcotics busted a “grow operation included a 40-acre, 24,000 plant farm with an estimated marijuana value of $36 million” that was not licensed. The raid uncovered “20 to 30 Hispanic men [who] were working on the farm and were potentially victims of Human (Labor) Trafficking,” the station reported at the time.
“While none of them willingly claimed to be a victim, these men were forced to live in deplorable conditions. They stayed in make-shift shanties without electricity or running water to the property. They appeared to be bathing and washing their clothes in a less than sanitary and stagnate creek/pond nearby. Interviews revealed that they had not been paid and were told that would receive a percentage of the profits after the harvest,” a spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics told the station.