The Oregon legislature passed a bill to address people growing marijuana illegally, which seeks to make the landowners themselves responsible, reports the Associated Press. The bill also prohibits the use of rivers or groundwater at illegal sites, and criminalizes seizing the identity papers of migrant workers who tend the plants or threatening to report them for deportation. Under the bill, local governments are authorized to file a claim of lien against property used for illicit marijuana if the owner doesn’t pay for the cleanup. Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler told lawmakers that after police raid illegal pot farms, neither landowners nor the suspects make efforts to remove the cheaply built greenhouses, known as “hoop houses,” latrines, and other debris, including plastics and chemicals.
Illegal growers lease or buy land with large amounts of money and proceed to leave the land polluted and the water table drained. Witnesses have described backpacks with thousands of dollars in cash being handed over to landowners. Gov. Tina Kotek is expected to sign the bill next week. “This is just an assault on property rights here in the state of Oregon,” GOP Sen. Dennis Linthicum said on the Senate floor. Sen. Jeff Golden said property owners should know something is amiss when they are “approached at the beginning of the growing season with requests to lease their property for tens, sometimes hundreds of thousand dollars for a single year.” Landowners who have been intimidated and suffered environmental damage from illegal grow sites are applauding the bill.