State funding for Josephine County’s new marijuana law enforcement team is being reduced slightly.
The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission is willing to continue funding the team — formed mainly just this summer — but is cutting the budget for a full-time deputy district attorney down to halftime, according to Sheriff Dave Daniel.
Funding for a prosecutor in Jackson was limited to half time. Daniel said the commission wanted funding for the prosecutor position to be standard for the two counties.
In addition to a prosecutor, the county’s team includes an analyst and two detectives, with a third detective due to come aboard next year. The team is called the Josephine Marijuana Enforcement Team.
Even with the reduction, Daniel is grateful for what he’s getting.
“I’m satisfied and thankful for the money we have received,” he said Thursday, following the commission’s vote earlier in the month. “It’s become very apparent to the other parts of the state the impact marijuana is having on our community.”
The commission originally granted the county $570,000 last year for just one year of operations. The most recent funding is for $930,000 for a two-year period beginning in January.
Daniel wasn’t able to use all of the first grant because it took time to hire and train deputies for his short-handed department.
While Jackson County had enough personnel to “take off running, we had to take off walking,” he said.
Detectives have now been working cases the last few months.
“Things are going well,” Daniel said, adding that he expects to provide statistics at year’s end.
The first search warrant served by the team resulted in the seizure of 1,377 marijuana plants, about 30 pounds of processed marijuana and $13,518 in cash. As of June, the prosecutor assigned to the team had cases against eight persons.
The team works with the Jackson County marijuana team and an Oregon State Police regional marijuana team, in addition to other drug teams in both counties.
“It takes that kind of collaboration,” Daniel said.
As of July, there were 199 state-approved licenses for recreational marijuana-related businesses in the county, in addition to 1,308 medical marijuana grow sites, according to Daniel’s application for the new funding.
There are an unknown number of illegal grow sites.
“The Sheriff’s Office does not have enough personnel to investigate all of the complaints related to illegal marijuana,” the sheriff said in the application. “The larger grow sites are typically on properties that include not only a residence but also many additional outbuildings and armed people guarding the grow sites.
“Executing a search warrant safely on these types of properties requires additional personnel to search the property and interview all of the people present.”
Reach reporter Shaun Hall at 541-474-3726 or email@example.com