Josephine County Ordinance 2021-02 and the Drug Cartels

Jonathan Knapp, Candidate for Josephine County Sheriff 2022

Recently the Josephine County Commissioners approved by a 2 to 1 vote Josephine County Ordinance 2021-02 under the misleading thought that this ordinance would allow the county the ability to identify and inspect illegal marijuana grows within the county.

We were told that is ordinance was created to allow county code enforcement officers the ability to enter private property to inspect and look for evidence of illegal grows.  The commissioners tried this eight years ago and 79% of the county voters voted to reject the measure.

I feel it is important to point out the difference in roles between a Code Enforcement Officer and the Sheriff’s Office. A Code Enforcement Officer is responsible to identify and cite offenders for violations of civil code (ordinances) while the Sheriff’s Office is tasked with identifying and cite for criminal violations of the law.

There is a reason that Law Enforcement is required to get a warrant prior to coming onto your property, that simply put is to protect your rights as a property owner under the 4th amendment which states: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Measure 2021-02 as written allows code enforcement officers (not law enforcement) to enter onto your property when they receive a complaint in order to look for the code violation.

In 2014 Oregon voters passed Measure 91 legalizing the growing and taxing of marijuana and hemp. Josephine County had the opportunity to get in front of that measure and pass ordinances protecting your property rights, a procedure that was conducted in many other counties in Oregon.

Josephine County already has a procedure in place to deal with illegal grows when the Sheriff’s Office wants to address the issue.  County Ordinance 2018-007 requires an Annual Certificate of Compliance in order to operate a marijuana business in Josephine County. The OLCC provides strict regulatory oversite by means of scheduled visits, surprise inspections, and third-party complaints to trigger investigations. The OLCC has authority to issue violation with sanctions including fines, license suspension, or license revocation.

Businesses without this certificate are deemed an illegal operation and the Sheriff’s Office can obtain a warrant to enter those properties and investigate as needed. Complaints can already be filed with the OLCC and that eliminates the need to complain to the county commissioners or code enforcement officers.

The Sheriff’s Office should be working closely with the OLCC and the State’s Marijuana Task Force to then investigate the complaints on non-registered grows.

According to the Sheriff’s published budget the Sheriff’s Office budgeted $375,000 from the marijuana tax in the 2019-2020 budget year and $725,000 in the 2020-21 budget year. These funds go to support the 4.5 employees assigned to that task.

Drug cartels are becoming an even more dangerous element in Josephine County, and I lay the blame solely at the feet of the Commissioners and the Sheriff.  Marijuana became legal in 2014 and we have done very little if anything to fight this growth. Citizens have complained but nothing has been done. Now we find ourselves entering an election year and we see a few raids which gather the attention of the news media, but we should have been doing these raids over the past seven years and we would not find ourselves in this position.

As part of this community, I am sure you have noticed the signs of growth and expansion in the illegal drug market. Some of these things I have noticed that by themselves don’t mean much but combined they do indicate a change in Josephine County., the increased numbers of vehicles with out of states plates while tourism and COVID has limited activities, Cadillac Escalades and similar vehicles pulling U-Haul trailers, The increased number of U-Haul vehicles in a community that is not growing that rapidly, The increased number of Hispanic individuals in the laundromats doing many more loads then a single family household, higher traffic than normal on our exterior county roads. All of these by themselves mean very little, but combined they are an indication that activity is increasing.

As the candidate who seeks to be your next Sheriff, I can assure you that I will work closely with the OLCC, JMET, RADE, MADGE/IMET and our other local Drug interdiction teams to reduce and eliminate illegals grows within Josephine County without violating the rights of the Josephine County residents.

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