MEDFORD, ORE. — Early on a warm August morning in 2021 — as helicopters and drones hovered overhead — three women huddled under a sheet of plastic in a southern Oregon greenhouse.
Outside, state, federal and county law enforcement were raiding the massive unlicensed cannabis farm where the women had worked for two months. Officers shouted into megaphones, marching through the farm, cutting tents open as they went, Isabella, 51, recalled. “The cops were very aggressive,” she said. “They didn’t care if there were people inside,” her sister Leticia, 53, added. Before they were done, the officers would uncover 6,000 pounds of processed marijuana, over 72,000 cannabis plants and more than 200 workers, both documented and undocumented, who were detained for questioning and then released.
But they wouldn’t find the three women. Afraid as they were the officers might inadvertently bulldoze the greenhouse with them inside, the women were just as fearful of being discovered without legal work documents. So as the tumult continued around them, they slipped away across a river and found refuge on a nearby farm.