Oregon cannabis operators and their employees are now required to report suspected instances of human trafficking to the state, or potentially face legal consequences.
Per the language of the order from the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, “Employees or workers at a marijuana licensed premises must report to a law enforcement agency or the OLCC if the employee or worker has a reasonable belief that sex trafficking or other human trafficking is occurring at the premises. Employees or workers must also report if they have a reasonable belief that a minor is employed or contracted at the premises in a manner that violates OLCC rules.”
Mouthful as that may be, it actually makes it a Category 2 violation for cannabis employees to not report any suspected instance of human trafficking. A violation of such a degree in Oregon is subject to maximum penalties of 30 days in jail and/or a fine of just under $5,000.
As a person who has spent the last decade or so around cannabis grows as an employee, journalist, and visitor it seemed odd to me to specifically include employees in the language of the order because any employee of a cannabis grow is typically—though not always—in a remote location far away from fast police response times or sometimes even working phones.
I asked Bryant Haley at the OLCC if employees who neglected to report something of this nature would be subject to fines or jail time.
“Likely not,” Haley said. “It would be the egregiousness of every case. Was the person partaking in some sort of illegal activity? That’s a different situation. Were they turning a blind eye to it on purpose? That’s a different situation.”
According to Haley, the OLCC received the directive to enact this order from legislation passed at the state level enacted to address rampant labor and sex trafficking on southern Oregon marijuana farms—A lot of people sleeping in greenhouses and living in deplorable conditions, a lot of “hemp farms” that were just cannabis farms using forced labor, and a big enough problem to cause the state legislature to direct the OLCC to require this reporting from its license holders.
According to Mark Pettinger, another OLCC spokesperson, this essentially turns anyone that works in the cannabis industry into a “mandatory reporter.” It would come down to the police to actually pursue jail time for employees; the OLCC does not have that ability. The OLCC can, however, impose fines.
When asked if the OLCC planned to impose fines on employees who worked for cannabis operators found to be involved in trafficking, specifically employees who neglected to report such crimes, Haley was not able to give me a firm answer because such a case has not happened yet, but he said their office’s main directive is taking action against the permit holder.
Regardless, human trafficking in the cannabis industry is a huge issue and I would be remiss to not include the following attempt at helping combat it with what little power has been vested in me:
If you or someone you know has been involved in human trafficking, call the U.S. Department of Homeland Security directly at 1-866-347-2423 or report it online here.
If you work for or own a cannabis business in Oregon and suspect human trafficking or child labor has occurred, you are now legally required to report it using their online tool here.