Deputies: Legal pot farmers growing illegal quantities

Deputies: Legal pot farmers growing illegal quantities

EUGENE, Ore. – From the cockpit of a helicopter 4,000 feet in the air over Lookout Reservoir, spotting marijauna can be tough enough for the Lane County Sheriff's Office.

But what deputies can't see is whether the plants are legal or not. Plants on federal property are illegal, but Oregon's medical marijuana law makes gardens on private property more difficult to judge.

That is, unless the garden clearly exceeds what the law allows. Oregon law enforcement officers say they're increasingly running into legal growers who are growing illegal amounts of marijuana.

"We did a search warrant yesterday and the guy's allowed to grow 24 plants," Deputy Marvin Combs said. "He had himself and three other patients, and when we get there he has 107 plants."

More than 36,000 Oregonians use marijuana for medicinal purposes. However, they can't legally buy the drug: they have to grow it themselves or find a caregiver to grow it for them.

Ballot Measure 74 would allow card-carrying medical marijuana users to get pot from dispensaries.

But some say loosening restrictions could lead to abuse – abuse some law enforcement officials say they already see.

"Two places that we executed search warrants on last evening, they both had cards," Combs said. "One was one plant over, the other was significantly over what he was authorized."

Measure 74 supporters say legal dispensaries won't lead to more illegal grows.

"I know a few growers right now that the only reason they grow is that there are not other options for patients," said Jim Greig, "and they've spent a few thousand dollars and a significant part of their life growing it."

Supporters said the measure would not only provide a boost for Oregon's struggling economy but help patients get access to medicine.