Published on:
Wednesday, January 12, 2022

‘Something’s not right in southern Oregon’: alarm at rise of illegal pot farms

Armed men in pickup trucks rule over vast illicit industry that has transformed rural counties, depleting water and scaring locals

Christopher Hall parks his old Toyota on a dirt road that dead-ends in a forest in Oregon’s Illinois Valley. He points out a cluster of greenhouses surrounded by piles of trash, and the hillside above, which has been terraced and entirely stripped of vegetation. Guard dogs run through a small clearing, barking at us.

Two men pull up almost instantly in a Honda with busted headlights; the driver asks Hall what he’s doing there. For a bespectacled middle-aged conservationist, Hall is surprisingly reckless. Even though he can see the men are armed, he yells back at them: “Where are you from? We know what you’re doing here is illegal! How many plants are you growing?” One man says they’re from Serbia and claims they have a license to grow as another truck pulls up.

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