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Plants destroyed after officers allege medical marijuana operation was growing illegally

Nearly 400 pounds of pot was burned last week after being seized by police who said its growers were outside the scope of the medical marijuana program.by: CENT - Twenty-three large marijuana plants burn after officers confiscated them from what they believe was an illegal grow operation in Vernonia.

Following complaints from the property owners, a registered Oregon Medical Marijuana Program grow operation in Vernonia was shut down Oct. 11 by the Columbia Enforcement Narcotics Team. While the 23 large pot plants were one under the maximum limit allowed under state law, Sgt. Phil Edwards, narcotics team unit supervisor, said the plants were being grown on land not specifically registered with the medical marijuana program. That made the operation illegal, Edwards said.

“As long as you stay within the confines of the law, you’re fine,” Edwards said about the state’s medical marijuana rules. “But the minute you step out...”

After taking some for evidence, officers gathered the hundreds of pounds of marijuana, took it to an out-of-the-way area and burned it with diesel fuel. Fire officials were on site to ensure the blaze didn’t get out of hand, Edwards said, adding that the drug smoke blew away from officials.

The plants were exceptional in that each contained nearly 3 pounds of marijuana, Edwards said, while an average outdoor pot plant might produce 1 pound.

“These were abnormally large plants, beautiful plants,” he said.

If sold illegally at street prices, the Columbia Enforcement Narcotics Team reports the marijuana would likely have been worth between $80,000 and $120,000.

There were no arrests made and no charges have yet come from the county District Attorney’s office.

Edwards said a “good majority” of large medical marijuana grows in Columbia County fall outside of the law.

“That doesn’t mean they didn’t start out with good intentions, but we found the provisions are not being maintained,” he said.

Names of the people associated with the operation, located at 55285 McDonald Road, have not been released.

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