BEND, OR -- The Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team (CODE) is warning outdoor enthusiasts of the risks involved with stumbling upon illegal marijuana grows on public lands this summer.
Ken Mannix with CODE tells KBND that drug traffickers have zeroed in on Central Oregon because of the climate, and the danger has increased as weather warms. "Drug trafficking organizations have targeted not only Central Oregon, but also Oregon for a number of years. It's fairly common for them to come in and set up plantations for grows both on public and private land throughout Central Oregon."
Mannix says if you come across a marijuana operation, be careful. "The majority of the outdoor marijuana grows that we've investigated over the past five to six years, there's always been some sort of evidence of firearms in those camps. It's fairly common," he says. "So, obviously, the concern there is with the public out recreating and being put in that position. That's why we don't want them to act on anything, but back out and call law enforcement."
CODE investigators have seen several marijuana-related activities on public lands in recent years, although they are often scattered in remote areas. Mannix doesn't expect that number to decrease when pot becomes legal in July.
"You're looking at two different animals here. We're talking specifically about drug trafficking organizations that are in this. It's a business. It's highly lucrative. There's a lot of money being made by organizations doing what they're doing. And, when we're talking about outside grows we could be talking about 5,000, 10,000, 15,000 plant grows. We've seen grows in Oregon that are upwards of 80,000 to 90,000 plants."
That high number of plants will still be illegal in Oregon after July 1.