Illegal marijuana also takes away resources like land and water from people who could use it legally.
Jackson County Sheriff Deputies raided a five and a half acre illegal cannabis grow on Hillcrest Road in East Medford last week.
The Sheriff’s Office said the grow used around 25,000 gallons of water illegally per day.
Sheriff’s Office Spokesperson Aaron Lewis said, “a million gallons over 40 days, that’s just an astronomical amount.”
Neighbors near the grow say it took most of their water supply.
“I have unconfirmed reports of wells, not necessarily going dry, but lower levels of wells in the area,” Lewis said.
NBC5 checked online with the Oregon Water Resources Department.
Both of the wells on the property were drilled legally and registered.
But as the state is cracking down on illegal grows, there’s more of an emphasis this year on prosecuting the people who help build the illegal operations.
Jackson County Deputy District Attorney Patrick Green said, “if you’re doing it with the intent to help commit that felony or that crime, you are just as liable as they are.”
Green is handling the county’s illegal marijuana cases.
He said the state wants to make sure well-drillers, irrigators and electricians are punished for helping illegal cannabis farms, if they can prove the professionals knew they were working at an illegal operation.
“It’s an important issue they felt strongly about,” Green said, “So I think it’s something we’ll look, because of the enhanced penalties, we’ll look to prosecute in the future.”
The legislature also recently increased the fines for illegal water use from $1,000 to $25,000 per day.
“The illegal grows look very much different from legal grows,” Green said, “You’re making the commission of that crime easier, and so you could be liable under an aid and abet theory.”
Jackson County hasn’t charged anyone with these types of crimes yet, but other Oregon counties have and it could happen here soon at any time
Separate from any potential criminal charges, county code enforcement has already started issuing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for illegal marijuana grows.
The highest for a single growing operation so far is $180,000.