Oregon unlicensed cannabis trafficking schemes prompt six arrests

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Federal prosecutors in Oregon announced charges against six people involved in two “vast” interstate trafficking operations that delivered marijuana to Texas, Virginia and Florida.

“These cases provide clear evidence of what I have repeatedly raised concerns over: Oregon’s marijuana industry is attracting organized criminal networks looking to capitalize on the state’s relaxed regulatory environment,” U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy J. Williams said in a statement Wednesday.

He said proceeds from the black-market sales returned to Oregon as cash stuffed in airplane luggage or through the U.S. mail.

In one case, the marijuana was grown in Portland and distributed in Houston, Texas and Virginia. In the second case, the marijuana was grown in Hood River and sent to Florida, according to court documents.

All six defendants are charged with conspiring to manufacture, possess and distribute marijuana – which remains illegal under federal law. Other charges include money laundering, kidnapping and using a firearm to commit a drug trafficking crime and interfere with commerce.

The defendants were not licensed by the state, said Mark Pettinger, a spokesman for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), which regulates the state’s general-use marijuana program.

Three of the defendants are from Houston, two from Portland and one from Hood River.

The OLCC froze applications for new growing licenses in June amid a huge backlog. And the agency recently dramatically reduced the amount of marijuana flower that medical cannabis card holders can buy at a retail store.

As of June, there were nearly 1 million pounds of “usable flower” in the system as well as 350,000 pounds of marijuana extracts, edibles and tinctures.

Williams, the U.S. attorney, has repeatedly called on Oregon regulators to tighten their monitoring of the marijuana industry to limit diversion out-of-state.

Associated Press