A marijuana grow is seen on Sep 2021, in an aerial photo taken by the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office in the community of Alfalfa, Ore. Oregon has long been known as a mecca for high-quality marijuana, but that reputation has come with a downside: illegal growers who offer huge amounts of cash to lease or buy land and then leave behind pollution, garbage and a drained water table.
Now, a bill passed by the Oregon Legislature seeks to tackle that by making the landowners themselves responsible for the aftermath. The bill also prohibits the use of rivers or groundwater at the illegal site, as well as criminalizes seizing the identity papers of migrant workers who tend the plants or threatening to report them for deportation.
Under the bill, local governments are authorized to file a claim of lien against property used for illicit marijuana, if the owner doesn’t pay for the cleanup.
A leader of the state’s cannabis and alcohol regulatory agency has said southern Oregon is to marijuana what Bordeaux is to wine. But the state faces challenges on two fronts: The regulated industry has a glut of product that has slashed prices and profit margins, and there has been huge growth in illegal pot farms operating under the guise of growing hemp, which became legal nationally in 2018.