VALE — An extended aerial search for marijuana-growing operations in Malheur County proved fruitful for the Malheur County Sheriff’s Department recently.
The sheriff’s department conducted multiple aerial searches for marijuana with the aid of Oregon National Guard helicopters during the last two weeks for a total of 46 hours of search time.
Several different growing operations were discovered along the Snake River outside of Ontario, Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe said.
None of the grow operations were on Bureau of Land Management lands, so Wolfe said the next step is for law enforcement to contact property owners and acquire search warrants if needed, Wolfe said.
“We need to determine if the plants found are legal operations for medical marijuana or illegal,” Wolfe said. “If the operation is illegal, a warrant may not be needed if the property owners consent to us going on the land and confiscating the plants. A lot of times, the people who own large stretches of land have no knowledge that marijuana is being grown there.”
Wolfe said the number of marijuana plants expected to be confiscated will not be great.
By confiscating the plants, however, law officials will also be removing a threat that a lot of people don’t consider, he said.
“If an individual stumbles upon a grow operation, and there’s growers physically there at the time, they can become hostile to those individuals,” Wolfe said. “That’s why we put forth this effort — to protect the public.”