Monday, August 24, 2009
Oregon Marijuana News
High times for an Oregon business: pot growing
Posted by Richard Cockle, The Oregonian
August 23, 2009 20:45PM
LA GRANDE -- The accidental death of a U.S. Forest Service worker last
week in the Monument Rock Wilderness underscores the seriousness of an
unusually active marijuana-growing season across Oregon this summer.
Steven A. Uptegrove, 52, died Thursday when he was hit by a falling snag
while helping the Baker County Narcotics Enforcement Team eradicate
2,156 marijuana plants.
The same day, Baker County authorities took down a marijuana garden with
12,023 plants about three miles away, Baker County Sheriff Mitch
Southwick said Friday.
"That makes 27,000 plants in Baker County this year" in four raids, the
sheriff said, estimating the street value at maturity of each plant at
as much as $3,500.
Statewide, law enforcement officers have shut down roughly 80 marijuana
gardens so far this summer, said Harney County Sheriff Dave Glerup of
Burns. Mexican drug gangs are suspected to be behind the big operations.
Glerup used helicopters last Tuesday to take down a 5,250-plant
marijuana garden at almost 6,000-feet elevation on rugged Steens
Mountain south of Burns, he said. His deputies arrested 11 Latino men.
"We believe they are all Mexican cartel grows, and these are hired
people," Glerup said.
Also this month:
-- The Grant County Sheriff's Office last Wednesday, took down a
23,000-plant marijuana grow south of Dale, the biggest in county
history. Three men and a woman, all Mexican nationals, were arrested,
Sheriff Glenn Palmer said.
-- On Aug. 14, police seized 1,630 marijuana plants on the Warm Springs
Indian Reservation. It was the fourth time since July 2007 that police
had raided pot-growing operations on the reservation, all believed
linked to Mexican drug gangs.
-- In an Aug. 4 raid, Grant County deputies shut down a 1,530-plant
growing operation and arrested five Latino men, Palmer said.
In nearby Malheur County, deputies in early August seized more than
30,000 marijuana plants in three raids in the White Horse Creek drainage
north of the Nevada border. Eight "garden tenders" were arrested.
Police say Mexico-based criminal organizations are finding it easier to
grow marijuana in the United States than to smuggle it across the
border. Glerup has found intricate irrigation systems of PVC pipe,
hand-dug water reservoirs at natural springs filled with fertilizer to
provide nutrients to the marijuana plants, and camouflaged drying racks.
Palmer said most of the growers he's encountered are in their 20s and
entered the country illegally. "They run like the wind, and they don't
like police," he said.
Michael Lloyd/The OregonianMore than 1,600 plants were seized in the
Warm Springs raid. So far this summer, authorities have shut down about
80 marijuana-growing operations across Oregon.
Uptegrove was killed at a growing operation dangerously sited about 2
1/2 miles from the nearest road in an area that was swept by wildfires
in the late 1980s.
"Snags are all over the place, rotting," said Southwick, the Baker
County sheriff, of the site along the West Fork of Bull Run Creek south
of Unity. "They are everywhere up there."
Uptegrove was a career Forest Service employee who spent more than 30
years in the agency's wildfire program. He had been assigned to Unity
for three years as an engine foreman and station lead, and worked on the
Wallowa-Whitman, Malheur, Payette, Willamette and Deschutes national
forests, said Judy Wing, a Forest Service spokeswoman in Baker City. He
is survived by his wife, Hope.
To the public, the biggest danger of stumbling across a growing
operation comes not from snags but growers with guns, sheriffs across
the region said.
With archery season beginning Aug. 29, black bear season already under
way and people hitting the woods to cut firewood and pick huckleberries
and blackberries, the potential for encounters is rising, they said.
Palmer, the Grant County sheriff, seized two semiautomatic rifles and a
stolen .40-caliber handgun in a raid on a remote marijuana garden
earlier this month, he said.
"These people are armed," Palmer said. "They probably are not going to
take lightly anybody coming into their grows."
Anyone accidentally wandering into a marijuana grow should "just leave
and notify the authorities, " Southwick said. "A GPS reading would be
great if they have one with them."
The season still has weeks to go. Lt. John Gautney of the Bend Police
Department and a member of the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team said
his officers have already confiscated more marijuana this year than all
of last year, and the raids may just be getting started.
"I would anticipate you are going to see quite a few more between now
and the end of September," he said.
-- Richard Cockle, rcockle@oregonwirel ess.net
http://www.oregonli ve.com/news/ index.ssf/ 2009/08/police_ across_oregon_ fi\